Monday, February 25, 2008

Making it up as we go along

In a recent post, the Japan Observer noted a shift in tactics in the LDP leadership's approach toward moving the road/gasoline levy legislation through the Diet. Rather than pushing hard for the ruling coalition's 10 year, 59 trillion yen plan, LDP Secretary General Ibuki Bunmei and LDP Election Measures Chairman Koga Makoto have "begun to indicate they would be willing to compromise"--provided that the DPJ provide its own bill first.

When the Japan Observer speaks of a shift in tactics, however, he is referring only to a change in the tactics of public relations.

The parliamentary tactics have always been 1) submit ridiculously gargantuan plan, 2) wait for the Democratic Party to offer a counterplan and 3) cut a deal between the two plans.

This has not changed.

What has changed is the LDP leadership, which had heretofore been emphasizing its readiness to confront the resistance and irresponsibility of the DPJ (Manly men are we, the spawn of menly men!) now is showing more feminine side--that it is open to compromise, but only if the DPJ makes its move ("Why don't they call? Don't they know we're ready to meet them halfway?").

The currently tripping Prime Minister Fukuda Yasuo echoed the softer line from Seoul.

However, the memo to "be nice" has not been able to alter the behavior of the one person for whom the repositioning could make a difference: House of Representatives Parliamentary Affairs Chairman Ōshima Tadamori.

[An asided - Ōshima is the only politician in the upper ranks of the party who manages to speak in paragraphs. Rather than spooling out the usual jumbled, emotive gurglings of his colleagues, Ōshima bangs out big architectural, intellectual structures, with almost visible beams, struts and joists. It is a real delight to hear him talk. ]

Over the weekend, he set a deadline of this Thursday (February 28) for the passage of both the budget and ancillary, enabling legislation, including the gasoline levy legislation.

Ōshima had little choice: he was starring into the abyss. Unless I am mistaken (Do you really want me to go through the list? - Editor) the House of Representatives must pass the budget by Thursday. Otherwise the budget will not go into effect (the budget automatic override period is only 30 days) in time for the April 1 beginning of the new fiscal year.

So come Friday, unless a miracle (a breakout of humility and self-awareness in the ruling coalition leadership) occurs, the whole aggressive, stinking pile of legislation will land slam on the desks of the members of the House of Councillors--leaving the parties to negotiating a compromise while the legislation is being raked over the coals in televised House of Councillors Budget Committee deliberations.

Fun, fun, fun...and not a T-bird in sight.

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