Monday, December 24, 2012

No Country For Gentlefolk

Harold Abrahams - "You know, gentlemen, you yearn for victory just as I do. But achieved with the apparent effortlessness of Gods. Yours are the archaic values of the prep school playground..."

- Chariots of Fire (1981)
According to Yuko Nakano, research associate at the Center of Strategic and International Studies:
The LDP, with its coalition partner Komeito, controls 325 seats in the Lower House which is more than the two-thirds majority that is needed to overrule the Upper House. However, the ruling parties cannot fall back on this "super majority" every time they try to pass important legislation. Such a legislative practice can be seen as a sign of "arrogance" by the public and the LDP and Komeito do not want to create a public backlash against them, especially before the Upper House election next year. It is precisely for this reason that the LDP and the Komeito may seek some form of partnership with others in the parliament.

According to Okumura Jun of Global Talk 21:
The LDP will maintain its position as a dominant mainstream party by virtue of its 1/4 bedrock share of the voting electorate plus an enduring coalition with Komeito (and its 1/10 bedrock support base) that includes intimate coordination at the SMD level (making Komeito the virtual pacifist-wing of the LDP). Moreover, the coalition has a House of Representatives supermajority that must be used sparingly from a media-management perspective but will enable it to pass annual tax legislation, which, coupled with the ~FY2012, blanket deficit-bond authorization, will enable it to keep the government running without regard to the configuration of the House of Councilors. This means that if the LDP does badly in the 2013 HoC regular election, it can jettison Abe in favor of a baby face and continue in power without calling a HoR election until December 2016, when its current term ends. The outcome of the 2013 HoC election is crucial for Abe's long-term survival as prime minister, but is only a speed bump for the LDP.

Were it that it were so. Were that there were a body of unwritten rules recognized by all; a compulsion to obey those rules out of a desire to be seen responsible and just; and an eagle-eyed news complex to keep one in line if one transgresses.

However, the above highlighted portions have nothing to do with Japanese politics of December 2012 and beyond. History tells a different tale as to the mores of this blessed land:

- On July 30, 2006, the last business day of the regular session of the Diet, when the one Abe Shinzo was basking in the sunlight of a majority in the House of Councillors and a supermajority in the House of Representatives, bill after bill was rushed through in the morning House of Councillors session on identical votes of 123 to 96, 123 to 96, 123 to 96 During lunch, the powerless opposition decided to give up, with only the Communists returning for the afternoon session. (Link - J)

- On March 19, 2011, eight days after the disaster of the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami and seven days since the meltdowns of the Fukushima Dai'ichi nuclear plants began, Prime Minister Naoto Kan called his Liberal Democratic Party counterpart Tanigaki Sadakazu. Kan proposed the establishment of a government of national unity with Tanigaki as the vice premier.

Tanigaki spurned the offer. The LDP's attack dogs went into action on the talk shows, rubbishing Kan's offer to share power in a time of national emergency.

- On March 21, 2011, two days after the LDP's spurning of Kan's offer, the news media began spreading the vile rumors that Kan had halted a last ditch injection of salt water into the reactor cores and interrupted plant worker efforts in an emergency visit to the plant on March 12. On March 28, Kan had to withstand withering Diet questioning of his judgment and calls for his resignation for contributing to or even causing the nuclear disaster...

...except of course that Kan during his emergency visit to the plant had given the order to enter the #1 reactor building that the plant managers had been awaiting from the management of Tokyo Electric Power...and the interruption of the injection of salt water had never taken place, the heroic onsite plant director having overruled a direct TEPCO order to stop the injection.

- On August 29, 2012 the LDP, angered by Prime Minister Noda's letting slip an LDP deadline for a Diet dissolution, voted for a motion of censure against the Noda government. However, due to a procedural rule, the LDP could not vote for its own motion of censure. It had to vote for a motion submitted by seven other opposition parties in the House of Councillors, including People First, the party of LDP's arch-enemy Ozawa Ichiro. The language of that censure motion condemned the raising of the consumption tax and the Triparty Agreement of the Democratic Party of Japan, the LDP and the New Komeito which had ensure the passage of the consumption tax bill. The New Komeito, seeing it impossible to vote for a censure motion that condemned its actions, walked out before the vote. The LDP contingent remained, voting against itself.

- On December 15, 2012, all the major newspapers published editorials on Prime Minister Noda Yoshihiko's dissolution of the Diet. The Yomiuri Shimbun, the enemy of the DPJ, declared unwavering support for the dissolution whilst outlining in detail how the election would be illegal. The Nihon Keizai Shimbun somehow found the illegality of the election less important than Prime Minister Noda's having missed the LDP's August 8 deadline for a dissolution. The Sankei Shimbun endorsed the dissolution without a mention of the legal and constitutional issues at all.

The most crushing, however, was the The Asahi Shimbun editorial. In what can only be seen as a concerted effort to complete an alignment with the most famous lines of William Butler Yeats' "The Second Coming" – "The best lack all conviction, while the worst. Are full of passionate intensity. "— The Asahi Shimbun acknowledged the illegality of the upcoming election only to endorse the dissolution as "something one just had to live with" (yamu o enai suru mono). (Link)

Adhere to an unwritten rule? The news media was unwilling to demand that the Prime Minister and the House of Representatives obey the law!

If there decency is to survive the incoming administration, hope must be placed in the influence of the New Komeito.

However, hope, they say, is not a plan. Rather than relying on heretofore unseen gentility in the LDP and a sudden growth of a spine in a crusade-leery news media complex, we need a new set of rules befitting the challenges ahead:
Jim Malone - "He pulls a knife, you pull a gun. He sends one of yours to the hospital, you send one of his to the morgue. That's the Chicago way!"

- The Untouchables (1987)

1 comment:

Philippe said...

Thanks for putting the dots on the ‘i’. I’ve been surprised (no, not really – amused at best, and maybe depressed the rest of the time) in the past few weeks about the gentleness of the media, both national and international, towards the friends of Shinzo and the LDP in general. There seems to be an epidemic of acute amnesia doing the rounds… Where is the WHO when you need it?