Monday, October 07, 2013

The Eternal Sunshine Of Noda Yoshihiko’s Spotty Recollection

The DPJ's Gang of Six
Former Prime Minister Noda Yoshihiko, who inexplicably called an election last December which led to his party's extirpation, is now doing P.R. for himself under the Bold, Mature and Sober labels.
Noda 'chose tax hike over being premier'
The Japan News

Former Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda said in a recent interview that he placed more importance on raising the consumption tax rate than remaining prime minister when he decided last August to approve the increase.

As head of the then ruling party, Noda agreed with the then two opposition parties on comprehensive social security and tax system reforms, including the consumption tax hike.


Noda said he had intended to resign from his Diet seat if he could not pave the way for raising the consumption tax.

"At the time I thought I might have to choose between the consumption tax hike or my post as prime minister," Noda said. "After also considering that I would have to choose between the tax increase and my own party [many members of which opposed the increase], I said I was willing to bet my political life. I meant that I intended to resign as a Diet member."

During the meeting of the leaders of the three parties last August, Noda was urged by then LDP President Sadakazu Tanigaki to specify when he, as the prime minister, would dissolve the lower house. At the time, the LDP wanted the lower house election to be held soon as it expected to score a major victory in the election, while the DPJ leadership wanted to delay the election as much as possible.

Noda said he replied: "I'll use an abstract expression but in a way that is as clear as possible. Both 'in the near future' and 'sometime soon' are all right with me."

After Tanigaki said, "I prefer 'sometime soon,'" Noda agreed to use that expression to describe when his administration would call an election, he said in the interview.

About the meaning of "sometime soon," Noda revealed that he had been determined to dissolve the lower house by the year-end.
“The only choice was [dissolution] by year-end. That was the bottom line. It was better for the nation considering the effects on preparing and implementing the budget," he said.


No, no, no, no and no.

That Abe Shinzo with his assault on the Bank of Japan and his profligate budgets would be reviving the animal spirits of the Japanese economy in 2013 was not something Noda could even vaguely foresee in mid-2012. Abe Shinzo was not the president of the LDP at the time. Noda was negotiating with Abe's hapless predecessor Tanigaki Sadakazu -- a mark demanding a double cross* if there ever was one -- whose economic policies were as no more expansionist than the DPJ's were. "LDP president Abe" to whom Noda would ultimately surrender, was still only a gleam in the eyes of revisionist and fantabulist members of the business establishment.

As for the excuse Noda makes for a November dissolution followed by a mid-December election, it does not hold water. An orderly process of compiling a budget is important, yes. However, is a sideshow if the DPJ has, as it did, a majority in the House of Representatives. The Constitution makes it clear that whatever the hell else happens, Japan's budget cannot be held hostage to a minority (the relevant passages are in Article 60, in case you are wondering).

What Noda did achieve, through his sobriety and iron-willed determination, was the electoral destruction of his party, the upending of a two-decade long process of building up a two-major-parties-alternating-as-the-party-of-government system and the short-circuiting the redrawing of the House of Representatives electoral map so as to reflect the Supreme Court's rulings on disproportionate representation -- all this, into the dumpster, in order to get the LDP to vote in favor of an LDP policy manifesto item. Furthermore, by calling the election in December, Noda made sure that the DPJ would suffer a huge cut in its 2013 government subsidy, making the financing of a return to power any time soon all the harder. Had Noda simply waited until January 2 for his announcement, his party, even if it lost a lot of seats in the subsequent elections, would still be on a decent financial footing.

Noda did not twist the LDP's arm, they twisted his, and his mind too. Snapping the spine of the DPJ was their job and Noda did it for them. If, as Noda indicates in this interview, it was either win the LDP's and the New Komeito's support for raising the consumption tax or resign from the Diet, I can think of hundreds if not millions of persons ready to cry, "Why the heck did you not resign from the Diet then?"

Furthermore, the Democrats cannot rid themselves of their portly DINO. He won his district handily last December by a greater margin than in August 2009. In addition, of all the members of the so-called "Gang of Six" of neither-entirely-cooperative-nor-entirely-helpful center-right leaders of the party (Noda, Edano Yukio, Azumi Jun, Okada Katsuya, Gemba Ko'ichiro and Maehara Seiji - Link - J), only Noda was able to bask in the glow of a DPJ candidate winning a seat in his home prefecture this past July.

Since the Democrats (and the rest of us) are stuck with Noda, the least we can ask for is that news organizations assign reporters willing to corner him on his dunderheaded management of the DPJ.

* How hapless was Tanigaki Sadakazu? He could be lulled into a debate over whether the House of Representatives should be dissolved "sometime soon" or "in the near future" and into choosing one of the two alternatives, allowing him to walk out of the building thinking he had extracted a concession from out of Noda.

Original image courtesy: Sankei Shimbun

No comments: