Monday, July 02, 2012

Ozawa Ichiro - The Final Act

In a few hours from now, Ozawa Ichiro, after a third and final meeting Koshi'ishi Azuma, his erstwhile friend in the Democratic Party of Japan leadership, will announce what he, Ozawa, will do with his party membership credentials.

Chances are he will tear them up.

Unlike in the case of his attempt to out prime minister Kan Naoto, where Ozawa watched the no-confidence vote on a television screen from his office, Ozawa turned up in person to hand the token takers the little blue-green tablet indicating that he was voting "no" agains the pending legislation.

For Ozawa, who is usually either at his home in Setagaya-ku or on the road when the Diet is in session, and who has a history of not showing up at crucial showdowns, to actually show up and vote on legislation in defiance of the party leadership is a strong indicator that he has made up his mind to go down with his ship, one way or the other.

One can imagine the frustration of Koshi'ishi, appealing to Ozawa's considerable sense of self-protection, describing to Ozawa what his future will be should he bolt from the DPJ:

"Without the party to protect you, you will be spending the rest of your living days giving testimony to Diet committees investigating everything you have done in your entire career. Are you ready to face such a future? Are your followers? Or do you actually believe that the LDP, having joined hands with you once, leading to the circumstances contributing to the death of Prime Minister Obuchi Keizo and, out of desperation, nearly joining hands with you again until you backed out after your private deal with Prime Minister Fukuda Yasuo and Watanabe Tsuneo led to your DPJ allies turning on you -- that the LDP will now join hands with you to turf out Prime Minister Noda Yoshihiko and form a conservative-liberal alliance of convenience with you? Do you not understand there is no there there? Does it not enter your imagination that the LDP and the New Komeito, whom you have both jilted (in the LDP's case four times) will not take this opportunity to join hands with your new enemy the DPJ and redistrict you and all who follow you out of existence? That your newest friends like Yamada Masahiko are nihilists, with nothing to lose?"

It is tempting to believe that Ozawa, having plunged so many times deep into a pool of resolution, only to climb out at the last moment, leaving his followers wet, cold and bedraggled, might be willing try this ploy one last time -- whether or not it salvages a single line of the DPJ manifesto of 2009. It is tempting to believe that his peculiar insertion of the phrase kyoko ni ("forcibly") in his criticisms of the Noda Administration's approach toward the passing the consumption tax legislation indicates he has some flexibility toward the legislation -- that if the passage were somehow accomplished without force, that he might entertain the notion of staying in the party.

However, the indicators are not in favor of this interpretation. Ozawa showed up for a vote in the Diet: that alone is "we interrupt this program to bring you a special announcement" level news. Kyoko ni is probably just rhetoric, an appeal to swing voters who are confused about whether the imposition of the rise in the consumption tax is a good thing or a bad thing, telling these voters, "Good or bad, it was the way that Noda approached the problem that was wrong."

Clouds wreath the capital. Rain has fallen and more is threatened.

The murky beginnings of what one presumes will be a long and memorable day.

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