Contrary to my assertions of Friday, Prime Minister Noda Yoshihiko has asked Democratic Party of Japan Secretary-General Koshi'ishi Azuma to remain at his post.
The press has asserted that despite Koshi'ishi's failure to keep some 70 members of the DPJ's Diet delegation from departing during his tenure, his presence is still needed to reassure the remaining disaffected elements in the party that their voices will be heard.
Noda may have indeed been planning to replace Koshi'ishi, only to reverse himself, due to a realization of how close the ruling coalition is to losing its once massive majority in the House of Representatives. More likely, however, the multiple meetings with Azuma over the weekend, ending in a plea for Azuma to stay on, was a careful concocted bit of theater, intent on convincing the losers in Friday's leadership contest that the central core of 220 Noda loyalists will pay attention to the party's fringe elements.
Koshi'ishi's retention as the party's main elections organizer sends a strong signal that elections are not imminent. Koshi'ishi is not credible and may lack the stamina to be the point man of an election pitting the DPJ not only against a default-vote LDP but an untried and as yet unassessable Japan Restoration Party.
Furthermore, the process of rendering the electoral district map constitutional will be a process of several months, not just a pair of votes in the House of Representatives and the House of Councillors.
First, the August reform bill is dead. Diet rules declare null and void bills passed by one House but not accepted in committee in the other House by the end of a Diet session. This is what happened to the bond issuance and electoral reform bills passed by the House of Representatives in an August 28 pre-emptive strike against the August 29 censure vote against the prime minister.
That the same electoral reform bill of August, a combination of the Liberal Democratic Party's so-call +0/-5 solution to the disparity in voting strengths in between the nation's largest and smallest electoral districts, a reduction of the number of proportional seat members in the House of Representatives and a mixed voting system for the remaining proportional seats, will not reappear is a virtual given. The August bill had been designed to fail, combining LDP and New Komeito ideas into a horrible chimera about which the opposition parties could never come to decision whether to accept or reject.
When the new, revised bill comes out of the DPJ's policy research council and receives Cabinet approval, however long that process will take, the draft will likely be so different from the August bill and so favorable to presumed DPJ strongholds that the LDP will gag. The resulting standoff between the two parties will extend for several more weeks, until a final reform bill can win passage from both Houses.
Only then will begin the process of resetting the boundaries of electoral districts, which have, since the last electoral reform, become scrambled by local municipality mergers and population shifts. This process, according a Tokyo Shimbun analysis, will take another two to three months (J).
So even if the ruling and major opposition parties come to a consensus on a basic electoral reform bill in the first weeks of October, an event which is extremely unlikely, the final electoral districts bill will probably not win passage before the end of the fall extraordinary session. This will leave the opposition gnashing its teeth until the 2013 regular Diet session, which means sometime in January.
The strugge over electoral districts would, of course, only become more tortured if a majority of the House of Representatives vote in favor of a motion of no confidence against the Cabinet. Noda wants to both keep his present job and chaos to a minimum. The LDP, which has demonstrated a disturbing nihilism, cannot be trusted to go along with Noda to prevent this catastrophe.
Hence the importance of retaining Koshi'ishi to keep the less-than-reliable DPJ troops in line when the crunch time comes during the extraordinary session.
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