Friday, August 26, 2011

If Ozawa Ichiro Has His Price Then So Do I

The newspapers reported this morning that Ozawa Ichiro or his surrogates have asked Maehara Seiji for important party posts for himself and his allies in return for Ozawa's support in Monday's Democratic Party of Japan leadership election. The Ozawa camp reportedly has gone so far as to request that Ozawa be given the post of DPJ Secretary-General (en).

This is either an incredibly stupid move on the part of the Ozawa camp, it is just an incredibly stupid move. Maehara spoke yesterday of his wish that the party would practice "baseball of the whole team" (zennin yakyu)-- by which he meant he would want all the various forces within the DPJ to work together toward common goals out of a common sense of duty. "You support me," Maehara is saying, "and I will make sure that your interests and desires will not be forgotten."

By shooting for the moon -- requesting that Ozawa become Secretary-General -- the Ozawa camp has shown it has lost all sense of where it stands as regards Maehara. By demanding places in the party leadership and the government in return for an Ozawa endorsement, Ozawa camp has managed also to get its sequencing backward. Endorsement first, then wait for the Maehara camp to propose posts commensurate with Ozawa's generous offer -- that was the sequencing the Ozawa camp should have followed.

In bargaining, and bargaining in a presumptuous fashion, the Ozawa camp has unleashed all the candidates in the race in these waning hours before the official candidacy papers must be filed to cut their own deals with Maehara's people. Finance Minister Noda Yoshihiko, former Environment Minister Ozawa Sakihito and former Minister of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Mabuchi Sumio now have a very good reason to fail to file their papers and pledge their support for Maehara -- trusting that Maehara will not forget them when it comes time to pick a new leadership troika at party headquarters and a new cabinet.

As for Minister of Economics, Trade and Industry Kaieda Banri, he must be completely stunned at the actions of his group leader Hatoyama Yukio over the last 24 hours. Not only did representatives of Hirano Hirofumi, current holder of the title of "Worst Chief Cabinet Secretary Ever" and Hatoyama's closest confidant, show up at the meeting of the representatives of those running in party leader race, even though Hirano has stated he is not running, but Hatoyama said, in what is a stab in Kaieda's back, that he is looking for "the most suitable person, not necessarily from the people currently set to run in the election"(en).

What, at this late hour? Somebody else?

Ay Caramba. Just when you think you have plumbed the depths of his duplicity and clumsy lust for influence, you realize that his duplicity and clumsy lust for influence are bottomless.

If Hatoyama has indeed dumped Kaieda, who was only in the race because of his a) ambition and b) rank of crown prince of the Hatoyama group, then Kaieda may also be offering his candidacy up to Maehara.

[While were on the subject of Kaieda, immediately after the vote on the feed-in tariff renewable energy bill, he offered up his resignation as minister of METI -- this ostensibly in order to put some distance between himself and the Kan administration.

When the Kan administration will cease to exist in four day's time.

Gotta admit it, Kaieda marches to a different drummer.

Prime Minister Kan, noting the brief period left before he will dissolve the Cabinet, refused to accept Kaieda's resignation.]

In the meantime, the House of Councillors has passed the bond issuance bill as well as the aforementioned renewable energy bill, the bills Prime Minister Kan Naoto said must pass before he will be willing to hand the reins of power over to the next generation of leaders. At 14:00 today he will make the formal announcement to the General Council of the DPJ that he intends to resign as head of the party and prime minister.

Then the fun, or what passes as fun in these disturbed and threatening times, begins.


Jan Moren said...

Well, fun, overall. If you think about it, all of this churn, this Sturm und Drang is really inconsequential. What happens now doesn't determine Japans long-term future, and most of the people involved now won't be around long enough to be part of that determination.

Whatever happens in the years after political realignment will have an impact, but that is at least another few years away. At minimum you'll have another election with the changed dynamics caused by new districting rules; more churn over one election cycle; then at least one more election that paves the way for proper disintegration and rebuild of the diet party structure.

This needs to happen in concert with a similar societal realignment, with some of the fossilised structured falling apart and being replaced by new ones. Once the "lost generation" isn't a generation, but most of the working population - and we're unfortunately more than halfway there already - that will cause enough political and economic incentive for employment systems and social safety nets to adapt to reality.

Similar processes will change agriculture and industry; expect small farmers to become much rarer as well as politically less powerful. And I'd also expect at least two major industry players to move abroad in all but name, and a third to go bankrupt - not discreetly overtaken by former competitors, but a very public belly-flop and Shakesperian death scene.

These kind of large-scale events is what is going to determine the future of Japan. The current political theatre does not substantially affect these processes, and is just a sideshow.

Anonymous said...

It is strange, apparently Hatoyama and Ozawa are still looking for a "third" candidate that might be able to trip up Maehara. Haraguchi has apparently communicated a desire "if asked" and as you mention Hirano has inserted himself into the mix. Apparently the former Deputy (Worst) Chief Cabinet Secretary Matsuno is also being considered. I doubt Ozawa S will support Maehara as he is the most adamant in terms of both not revising the manifesto and rolling back Ozawa's suspension. But, really, these kinds of games are not going to inspire a sense of confidence and loyalty in those members of his or Hatoyama's group that Ozawa seems to be treating as playthings. Will the election, much like the no-confidence vote, end up doing more damage than good to the unity of the Hatoyama/Ozawa group?

MTC said...

Herr Morén -

Whiie much of what you have said is true, especially in light of the split control of the Houses of the Diet, leadership still matters. The disintegration and rebuilding can either be an orderly process, according to the rule of law, or a cowboy process, according to the whims of particular bureaucrats and powerful individuals. One can only imagine, for example, how a few tweaks of the personality and habits of Ozawa Ichiro would have for the last two years or the last twenty, choose your starting date, had a huge impact on the way Japan is today.

Jan Moren said...

MTC, my basic point is that while leadership will matter, the leadership of the characters on stage at this time will mostly not, simply because they will be retired or dead by the time the process actually gets underway.

All major actors are mutually interlocked, unable to move decisively no matter how needed, and have been for the past decade. It will take a minimum of two to three election cycles - another 7-15 years or more - before things reach a crisis point where the deadlocks are resolved.

By the time it happens, Ozawa, Hatoyama and the rest of that generation will be gone - long spent in this neverending, never resolved battle, or simply dead. Some of the young Diet members of today will be around and in power, though many will be losing their seats between now and then, but they will be their own by then, not minor actors in Osawa's playbook. The current battle-lines will be of minor historical interest and not much else.

MTC said...

Sigma1 -

Ozawa Sakihito was being pressured throughout the day to defer to Kaieda Banri's run for the leadership post. This is a pretty ugly display of muscle against a person who did everything he could to abnegate himself before Ozawa Ichiro and his associates.