When the Divine wants to punish youIn his most recent post to his blog GlobalTalk 21, Okumura Jun offers some guesses as to why the Liberal Democratic Party, which has until recently sworn it will boycott and block all Diet business unless Prime Minister Noda Yoshihiko commits to dissolving the Diet and calling elections in December, has, while not swerving from its commitment to December elections, suddenly de-escalated the crisis over the bond issuance bill and the formation of the commission in charge of implementing the social welfare reforms package. (Link)
It answers your prayers...
Okumura-san sees three main drivers behind the LDP climb-down. I do not disagree with his first two, that
1) the Keidanren and other business lobbies are shouting in the LDP's ear to not play politics with the nation's economy and
2) the LDP leadership senses that the party is so far ahead in the polls its mandate is to avoid doing anything stupid, rather than trying to provoke change.
To those screaming in the ears of LDP Diet members I would add prefectural and local officials, the vast majority of whom are members of the LDP. The message they are screaming? "When the government is reducing budget outlays and is threatening complete cutoffs of all distributions because of your opposition to the bond issuance bill, we are the ones getting killed. Are we in the same party or what?"
As to Okumura-san's third point, I agree that the LDP does not want Noda to resign. However, Okumura-san does not go far enough in imagining the LDP's worst nightmare. His nightmare scenario is that a) Noda resigns and b) the telegenic DPJ Policy Research Council chairman Hosono Goshi takes over as party leader and Prime Minister.
I see two weaknesses in this nightmare scenario.
First, having Hosono "Hot Lips" Goshi as the Democratic Party of Japan's new leader seems insufficiently terrifying. The DPJ's party support and "which party are you going to vote for in the proportional list vote" numbers are so awful that the popularity bump from Hosono's handsome face and youth will merely shift the needle of the DPJ's post-election outlook from "essentially extinct" to "irrelevant."
Second, a Noda resignation and a Hosono takeover will leave unchanged the fights over the bond issuance bill, the formation of the social welfare commission and, most critically, the electoral district reform bill.
That last item is about to take a turn for the worse, if Acting Secretary-General Azumi Jun's Friday announcement is any indication. According to Azumi, DPJ members will need more than a week to talk about the bill amongst themselves (Link) -- which is pretty much a confession that whatever the DPJ leaders are cooking up will be significantly different from the bill they submitted in the Regular Session, which they pushed through the House of Representatives only to watch it die on the doorstep of the House of Councillors.
It is also a fair bet that even if the LDP cooperates this coming week on the bond issuance bill and the social welfare reform commission, Noda will not reward the LDP with a palatable electoral reform bill.
He never gives up a centimeter on anything.
The LDP leadership is not unaware of Noda's ability to lead his enemies into moving too quickly and thus squandering their advantages. The LDP therefore has an incentive to cooperate on the bond issuance bill and the social welfare reform commission, but at a glacial pace, in order to at least try to pressure Noda into offering a reasonable deal on an electoral district reform bill.
If everything grinds to a halt on the bond issuance bill or the LDP devises some other sort of mischief to hobble the prime minister, Noda and his Cabinet could very likely resign…...but not because they would have to...because they would want to.
Because if the Cabinet resigns, Noda and the DPJ can deploy the most vengeful, most malicious and most wicked weapon imaginable against Abe Shinzo's LDP: hold an immediate vote for a new prime minister and vote, one and all, as a party -- for Abe.
Implausible? Not really.
Make Abe the prime minister: heck, that is what he wants, is it not? All at once the problems bedeviling Noda and the DPJ -- the government's having neither operating funds nor a means of conducting a constitutional election – become Abe's problems – which he would have to address immediately and, because he could not call a constitutionally valid election, he and the LDP could only tackle in a coalition with the DPJ -- with the DPJ, as the larger partner in the coalition, calling most of the shots.
Insane. And brilliant. Insanely brilliant. Brilliantly insane.
What is more, there is nothing the LDP or any other party could do to stop Noda and DPJ from dumping the nation's problems in Abe's lap. The House of Representatives elects the prime minister (Constitution of Japan - Article 67). Even if every member of every other party boycotted the premiership election, and even if a few flabbergasted DPJ members refused to back the plan, the remaining DPJ members of House of Representative would still be numerous enough to form the quorum (Article 56) able to vote Abe into office.
It cannot be for no reason that LDP's cry is "dissolve the Diet" (kaisan) – this even though everyone knows that dissolving the Diet without the passage of an electoral reform bill would plunge the country into a constitutional crisis -- and not "Resign!"
Aha, but did not Prime Minister Noda say on Friday, in response to a question from LDP House of Councillors member Nomura Tetsuro, that
"As for a resignation of the Cabinet, I believe that would represent a prime minister abandoning his responsibilities." (Sojishoku ni tsukimashite wa naikaku soridaijin to shite no sekinin o hoki suru mono de aru to kangaete orimasu)?
Yes he did.
However, as former LDP president Tanigaki Sadakazu found out, what one thinks a phrase means and what Prime Minister Noda thinks a phrase means can be two very different things.
Reading the sentence again, Noda does not say, "I will not resign!" does he?