Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Rushing Forward With No Confidence

On Sunday, I put forth the proposition that Koizumi Shinjiro's visit to Liberal Democratic Party headquarters accelerated LDP moves toward submitting either a no-confidence motion against the Cabinet or a censure motion against prime minister Noda Yoshihiko. Koizumi, walking very much in his father's footsteps and also reflecting his long stint in Washington, has become the face of the free market/low tax wing of the LDP, especially since The Big Man, Nakagawa Hidenao, has been put on ice.

In pushing a plant to threaten the PM with a no-confidence motion or censure, Koizumi was also the representative of the members of the LDP who had resigned themselves to the June 15 three-way LDP, the New Komeito and Democratic Party of Japan agreement to vote for consumption tax bill in both Houses of the Diet. Not a few in the LDP were sure the consumption tax issue would lead to the breakup of the DPJ.

The controversy over the raising of the consumption tax did indeed lead to a breakup, with Ozawa Ichiro leading his followers out of the DPJ. However, to the disappointment of those who thought the breakup would result in the DPJ-led coalition losing its majority in the House of Representatives, Ozawa led out of the DPJ only about half of the legislators purportedly under his influence -- well short of the number of rebels needed to transform the DPJ-led coalition into a minority government.

When Koizumi and his six youthful fellow LDP members bullrushed the office of the LDP party president, however, they were pushing on an open door. LDP president Tanigaki Sadakazu has known that in order for him to win reelection in the party presidential election in September, he had to have something to show for his first term.

He had to foment a crisis, and in this month.

The dispute over the date of the House of Councillors vote on the consumption tax was too small potatoes for this purpose, at first glance. The LDP proposed to have the vote on the 10th; the DPJ and Prime Minister, wanting delay action in the Diet so that they might cut deals on legislation with Tanigaki's successor, proposed a vote on the 20th.

The DPJ offer was only an initial bargaining position, though. The party's negotiators, in talks with LDP and New Komeito representatives, indicated the August 10th date was acceptable. (J)

Taken aback, the LDP violated all normal negotiating procedures and proposed a vote on the 8th -- a counter proposal to which the DPJ, while indulging in the requisite amount of whining at the LDP's duplicity, agreed to yesterday. (J)

Of course, in the meantime, in the face of the DPJ's violent accommodation to every one of the LDP's wishes, the LDP presented a further demand -- that Prime Minister Noda make a public commitment (kakuyaku) to dissolve the Diet after the House of Councillors vote on the consumption tax legislation. Otherwise the LDP would submit either a no-confidence motion or a censure motion or both.

The Prime Minister, who if anything is calm and controlled in his responses, told the LDP yesterday that the dissolution of the Diet was his problem, the timing of which was up to him and nobody else (J). A seemingly now hysterical LDP leadership responded by vowing to go through with its threatened submission of a no-confidence motion or a censure motion today, and to renege on the June 15 agreement. (J)

It is a rare thing when the representatives of a small religious party have to pay a visit to the headquarters of a large secular party in order to tell the secular party "Calm down or else." Nevertheless, that is what leaders of the LDP's longtime ally the New Komeito, their faces grim, had to do last night (J). Presumably they explained to their LDP counterparts that if an election were held, the LDP-New Komeito alliance would lack a majority in either House of the Diet -- and that no third party would cut any deals on passage of legislation with an LDP that has a history of backing out of major, signed agreements.

So all by indications, Tanigaki has triggered the political crisis he needed. Unfortunately, it seems to be leading to his own private Waterloo, rather than the overthrow of the Noda government he has desired.

Later - This post has been edited for clarity.

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