Saturday, June 30, 2012

And Ozawa Ichiro As Moe Greene

Former Democratic Party of Japan leader Ozawa Ichiro has met three times over the last two days with his erstwhile friend in the DPJ leadership Koshi'ishi Azuma, this over Ozawa leading his followers and allies in an open rebellion against the leadership's sponsorship of legislation raising the consumption tax from 5% to 10% by April 2015.

After the first two rounds of talks on Thursday, Ozawa said that if the talks end in failure, he will have to make a grave decision. After the third meeting on Friday afternoon, Ozawa promised he would make the decision one way or the other (presumably he was referring to leaving the DPJ or staying) on Monday.

In terms of the content of the Ozawa-Koshi'ishi discussions, one can say with some degree of confidence that it does not require three meetings and a weekend to deliver an ultimatum.

For that, one meeting would have been more than sufficient.

It does take three meetings and a weekend for a talking-things-over with one's minions for a very arrogant man who thought he was in an impregnable position to come to the realization that he has been made an offer he cannot refuse.

In all the discussions of Ozawa's magic numbers -- whether it is

- the 54 DPJ members he would have to drag along with him out of the party (lest any of his followers have second thoughts about the jump, Ozawa made sure to extort letters of resignation from his supporters, which he keeps stashed in his pocket) to reduce the DPJ to minority status in the House of Representatives

- the 43 42 he would need to lead out of the party in order to form a parliamentary caucus of 51 representatives, the minimum necessary to propose a no-confidence motion. however many billions of yen his followers would need to run credible campaigns in their districts, should elections be held

- the percentages of the public appreciate Ozawa's departing the DPJ with his followers in tow to form a new party [15%, according to The Asahi Shimbun; 16%, according to the Yomiuri Shimbun]

two little problems have been overlooked:

1) the Noda government has established a working, if not exactly cordial, relationship with the Liberal Democratic Party and the New Komeito, and

2) whilst the LDP/New Komeito alliance wants to replace the DPJ/rump PNP as the ruling coalition, it absolutely craves the chance to crush Ozawa once and for all.

Talented amateur player of Go that he is, Ozawa may be a little taken aback to find himself in an impossible position, neither able to cut a deal nor walk away from the table undiminished.

Everything hinges now on pride, whether Ozawa overcomes his, or sends the political world reeling again based upon his confidence in the rightness of his own vision.

Later - The original text of this post contained a number of links, all of which were lost in a software crash at midnight, Tokyo time.

Even later - I confess a certain sympathy with the view expressed by Okumura Jun over in his June 26 post over at GLOBALTALK 21: that Ozawa has lost control of his followers, leading to their redefining on their own what fanatical devotion to him should be.


Michael Penn said...

Jun Okumura has it right: The troops are leading the General. When you talk about Ozawa "extorting" letters from the lawmakers who support him, I have no idea what you are talking about. Sometimes you seem to let your dislike of Ozawa's character get in the way of your otherwise profound analysis. You need to think more about how the "Ozawa Group" is more than simply Ichiro Ozawa.

MTC said...

Mr. Penn -

1) If Ozawa is so confident of his follower's fanaticism, why is he keeping the letters of resignation? Would it not make a more dramatic show for the legislators themselves to deliver the letters in person?

2) Where I get my concept of extortion is from the reporting of The Asahi Shimbun:



If after holding a general meeting of his supporters, urging them to fight with him, the ring leader then pulls each member one by one into a private room, asking him or her to hand over a letter of resignation, should not be considered paranoid, abusive and extortionate, then please tell me what should be.

Michael Penn said...

First of all, welcome back. Life is better when there is the Shisaku Blog to read!

Second, I happened to read the same Asahi passage some days ago and found it fascinating as a demonstration of Ozawa's political method. But equating the asking of lawmakers one-by-one for their letters of resignation and extortion seems a stretch. Extortion gives the sense of some kind of coercion, but Ozawa holds no power over his supporters these days other than bonds of trust in his abilities and affection to the man who guided them into politics. He doesn't control any party budgets or electoral districting at present. Lawmakers who want to drift away from him and join the mainstream of the DPJ can do so without penalty to their careers and some have, in fact, chosen to do this. Indeed, those who have been sticking with Ozawa have been paying an increasing political price for their loyalty and may lose their Diet seats as a result. Therefore, I really don't see the abuse and extortion that you are reading into this matter.

Third and finally, I reiterate that you should take a closer look at what Ozawa's young supporters believe this matter is all about. Visit the Twitter accounts and blogs of people like Yukiko Miyake and Yuko Mori. I don't think these people can credibly be described as flunkies and fanatics and victims of extortion. They believe they are part of an important political movement for the reform of Japan that Ozawa leads. You may think they are dead wrong and that Ozawa is just using them, but your analysis needs to incorporate the fact that these are sincere and intelligent people who truly believe that they are on the side of the angels.

I submit to you that it is the passion of the young Ozawa Group lawmakers that is now shaping and constraining the decisions of Ichiro Ozawa. If he wants to remain relevant and still have a group to lead, he has to care about the things that they care about. Yes, Ozawa is looking at the anti-nuclear movement opportunistically, but that doesn't mean the young lawmakers who follow him are not, in fact, true believers in the popular cause.

Five years from now, it will be some of the Ozawa Children, and not Ozawa himself, who will endure in the political world.

The Ichiro Ozawa of 2012 may look like the 1993 version in terms of his personal style, but the political dynamics are different now. Look beyond the individual and see the movement.

MTC said...

Dear Mr Penn:

I made clear in my post "Of Course I Do" of June 28 that I think a large number of Ozawa's younger followers to be thoughtful persons fully cognizant of their own interests. However, they are of the milieu in which they inhabit: where loyalty and gratitude toward the leader tips the balance away from reason and open-debate.

As for the method Ozawa used to nail down a promise of a resignation from the attendees at his June 21 meeting, I am sorry, drawing them in, one by one, into a private room is by definition manipulative and unequal.