Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Dumb stuff

I recently wrote that neither Prime Minister Fukuda Yasuo nor Ozawa Ichirō is stupid.

This should not be construed as meaning it is impossible for either of the two gentlemen to commit raging stupidities.

For example, the head of the Democratic Party of Japan must wake up nights, stare at the window and wonder, "Whatever made me say that phrase?"

On the night of November 2 double meeting of the PM and Ozawa that precipitated the Ozawa resignation drama the PM pointedly refused to say that he had discussed a coalition government (renritsu seiken) with his counterpart. Instead he kept repeating that he had only discussed a "new political framework" (shinseijitaisei).

By contrast, after the second meeting where Ozawa informed the PM that the Democratic Party's executive committee had voted down the PM's proposal, Ozawa told reporters that the Democrats had rejected a renritsu seiken.

In that instant, Ozawa should have felt control of the political calendar slipping from his fingers.

In stating that he himself not had rejected out of hand a proposal for a DPJ-LDP coalition--one that would make both the LDP's coalition with the Komeitō and the DPJ's alliance with the Socialists, Communists and the Kokumin Shintō instantly superfluous--Ozawa stomped on every last shred of Fukushima Mizuho's, Shii Kazuo's and Watanuki Tamisuke's trust.

The electoral map of the House of Representatives present problems that are almost insurmountable without at least a public perception of ongoing lockstep cooperation between the Socialists, the Kokumin Shintō and the DPJ (the Communists are still too intent on proving their own importance to think about the political health of the nation. Their continued existence siphons off enough progressive votes in marginal districts to consign Japan to eternal conservative government. But I digress..) The DPJ has about 220 candidates ready to go for election to the district seats. It is hoping to recruit another 30 candidates before year's end. Prior to the fateful Friday meeting, the DPJ was counting on the Socialists and the Kokumin Shintō to provide 20 to 30 candidates of their own to run in districts where the DPJ would voluntarily not field a candidate. In return, the Socialists and Kokumin Shintō would encourage their local organization to work hard for the DPJ.

How enthusiastic will the cooperation minor parties be now? Not very. Not unless, as a penance, the DPJ uses its numbers in the House of Councillors to harass and annoy the LDP in a long series of pointless, destructive demonstrations--such as the vote yesterday reversing law permitting the dispatch of Air Self Defense Forces units to Iraq.

If Ozawa had just followed the PM's lead, talking about a vague "new political structure" -- he then could have pretended he really did not understand what Fukuda had been offering and did not realize he was accepting a plan to ditch his allies.

Instead, he and the DPJ are forced to grovel before their disgruntled (enraged?) confederates in the House of Councillors. The marginal parties control the extra votes giving the DPJ the majority --and the marginal parties are really, really mad.

Which may be part of the reason why Fukushima and Watanuki made such a show of seeming to be having such a jolly good time with Prime Minister Fukuda last Thursday.

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