Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Asō Tarō's Big Hurry, Article 60 and Me

Questions I must ask myself if I am to understand Prime Minister Asō Tarō's electoral schedule strategy:

"Is a supplementary budget (hosei yosan) for all intents and purposes a budget (yosan) as described in Article 60 of the Constitution?"

"If a Diet is dissolved, does the period of time between the dissolution of the Diet and the election of a new one constitute a part of the term of a Diet?"
For if the House of Representatives passes a "supplementary budget" that is in constitutional terms "a budget" (do not get me started on the question of definite vs. indefinite articles) -- which is then not acted upon by the House of Councillors -- then after a guaranteed-to-be-inconclusive round of talks between the parties controlling the House of Representatives and the parties controlling the House of Councillors, the bill passed by of the House of Representatives would become law (no 2/3 majority is needed) 30 days after of the House of Representative vote "the period of recess excluded" (kokkai kyūkaichū o nozoite).

Now let's see what that "period of recess excluded" bit does to plans to hold an election as soon as the second Sunday in November...for the government's theory is that the House of Representatives will begin examining the supplementary budget bill on October 6 and possibly pass it on October 7, with the House of Councillors receiving the bill on October 9.

Now still in my memory at least is Asō Tarō's excoriation of the Democratic Party of Japan in his inaugural address to the Diet on Monday. Basically he painted the DPJ a mob of unreasonable, semi-treasonous do-nothings.

Do Asō and the ruling coalition leaders think that after Monday's tongue-lashing, the opposition-controlled House of Councillors will feel compelled, out of fear of appearing irresponsible, to pass the ruling coalition's supplementary budget, thereby freeing Asō to call an election, his smile even broader and more glittery than usual in light of his smashing legislative coup?

Because what I would do is Jack Diddly Squat with the government's bill, using the 30 days to make the LDP-led ruling coalition squirm with a House of Councillors schedule packed with investigations into the pensions scandal, the Agriculture Ministry scandals, the failure of the government to fulfill its promises on moving road taxes into the general fund scandal...

Because the "let's bullrush the House of Councillors into capitulating" strategy worked so well a year ago in the government's attempt to force a renewal of the dispatch of Maritime Self Defense Forces ships to the Indian Ocean...and so well in forcing the House of Councillors to accept the government's first two candidates for the position of Governor of the Bank of Japan...and so well in forcing the renewal of the gasoline levy during the regular Diet session in time for the April 1 deadline...

I cannot imagine that after all that has happened over the last year I am not hearing people thinking out loud about the unthinkable: of the possibility that the House of Councilors will tell the the government to, in Thomas Friedman's delicate phrase, "suck on this" until November 6, the day when the legislation would automatically go into effect under Article 60 -- in the hope that the lost month tarnishes Asō's victory and delays the Diet dissolution until November 7, pushing the election into early December.

...and that is if the Cabinet Legislative Burean has ascertained that a hosei yosan is a yosan as described in Article 60. If they were to decided it was not, then the gumming up of the supplementary budget and the Diet dissolution strategy would be even uglier.

No comments: