Friday, July 25, 2008

Sauve Qui Peut

OK, let me see if I understand this.

Because the New Kōmeitō is concerned that its image as a party of peace is being compromised by its acquiescence heretofore to the repeated passage of the Anti-Terror laws (which have legalized the dispatches of Maritime Self Defense Forces ships to the Indian Ocean and Air Self Defense Forces fixed-wing aircraft to Iraq, both in logistical support roles) the party wants to avoid voting on the renewal again.

In order to avoid having to vote on a renewal of the maritime dispatch law, which sunsets on January 15, 2009, the New Kōmeitō is simultaneously asking its coalition partner the Liberal Democratic Party to:

1) call the extraordinary fall session of the Diet to order in mid-September rather than late August and

2) dissolve the Diet in early December, setting up a House of Representatives election in mid-January.

If the Prime Minister were to call the extraordinary session to order in late August that would leave plenty of time for the ruling coalition to pass the renewal legislation in the House of Representatives, wait the 60 days required by Article 59 of the Constitution for the override of non-budget, non-treaty related legislation ignored or rejected by the House of Councillors, then override using the ruling coalition's two-thirds majority-- all within the same Diet session, as is required by law.

So to avoid this the New Kōmeitō wants to start the fall session late. That way, come early December, the party can throw up its hands and say, "Oh, darn. We ran out of time. We just have to let the renewal wait until after the New Years holidays!"

Now as to the need to get the House of Representatives election out of the way early next year the reason being proffered is -- and I am not making this up -- that the New Kōmeitō wants to have no distractions next year as it prepares for the all-important Tokyo prefectural assembly elections of mid-July.

So national elections are a distraction; the real prize is seats in the Tokyo assembly.


Now into this mix throw loose talk, encouraged and abetted by bored political journalists, of a cabinet reshuffle. New Kōmeitō leaders are doing their damnedest to squelch such speculation, dismissing a reshuffle as unlikely to raise Prime Minister Fukuda's popularity ratings.

This almost certainly true--and anything true in all this political gamesmanship is conspicuous for its lonesomeness (all apologies to Mark Twain, from whom that line is stolen). With only a few minor exceptions (Hatoyama Kunio) the current Cabinet is the best the coalition could hope for. As stated earlier posts, where is there this fanciful second string of all-stars, ready to jump in to replace the Rule and Reign of the Faction Leaders?

Furthermore, if one is going to dissolve the Diet anyway in less than six month's time (I am following here the purported ideal New Kōmeitō political calendar) what would be the point of reshuffling the Cabinet now? Nothing would make the ruling coalition look more shallow and sleazy than the appointment of a whole new slew of actors, only to dismiss them less than six months later.

Oh sure, one could appoint a cabinet out of spite, dragging the Koizumi loyalists out of their all-important -- and I am not making this up either -- bowling at the Prince Tower Hotel. The willingness of the Koizumi Kids to fight under the LDP banner is becoming less credible by the day, especially after LDP Elections Measures Chairman Koga Makoto's rejected basically all of the Koizumi "assassins" as unworthy of being LDP district candidates.

However, it is doubtful that Prime Minister Fukuda is depraved enough to summon a cabinet Koizumi loyalists just to prevent them from slipping the bonds of the LDP. Asking them to form a government could also end in embarrassment for Fukuda -- they might just refuse to accept their appointments.

So what do we have, at the end of the day and the work week?

- A sadly unpopular prime minister with no post-G8 Summit bump (a result of the attendance at the Summit of a certain Texan of very little brain. Why did the organizers invite him? Oh, right) and little likelihood of a post-reshuffle bounce.

- A partner in the ruling coalition that would rather bring the House down than let its members vote their consciences

- A citizenry so primed to dump the ruling party that in some districts the opposition could put up a dog as a candidate and win.


Me, I think I'll flee north, to Karasuyama.


Jan Moren said...

You bring up a good question: wouldn't New Komeito benefit more from letting the legislation come to a supermajority vote, then vote it down? It'd be a hit with their constituents, and it'd pave the way for cooperation with DPJ.

I have to think about this one a bit.

Anonymous said...

Is it possible that the US presidential election is a factor as well?

Could not the vote be used/seen as a reward or punishment or even warning to a new administration?

For example, a negative vote on the refueling mission could be seen as prelude to renegotiating the conditions upon which Tokyo would be supportive of Washington. This is likely to be especially true if Obama was elected.

A positive vote would be a thank you to McCain who has the same Japan team as Bush that was so loved in Tokyo.

There are other interpretations, but the above is just to explore the idea.