Thursday, June 14, 2012

The End Game

The Democratic Party of Japan, the Liberal Democratic Party and New Komeito, the only three parties that matter -- a state of affairs so grating to the other parties in the Diet that the three leftist microparties and the one libertarian miniparty are joining hands to protest the "price fixing going on behind closed doors" (J) -- are putting the final touches on a final agreement on the shakai hosho zei ittai kaikaku an, the bills enabling the combined reforms of social security and tax systems. (J)

There are some hurdles standing in the way of the three parties coming to an agreement by the Prime Minister's deadline of June 15. The LDP wants the Noda government to repudiate the DPJ's 2009 manifesto pledge to rewrite pension law so as to guarantee that all pensioners receive a minimun 70,000 yen per month from the national pension plan. The LDP and the New Komeito together want Noda to repudiate the DPJ manifesto pledge to repeal the special eldercare system for persons over 75 years of age, a terribly unpopular and initially confusing program of mandatory healthcare prepayment the two parties sweated blood to pass when they held the reins of government. The three parties are also at loggerheads over what, if anything, they should do to lessen the impact of the imposition of the consumption tax on those person living at or below the poverty line.

Now according to the news noise machine, Prime Minister Noda is desperate and willing to sacrifice the DPJ's identity (E) or prepared to discard policies intrinsic to the DPJ's unity (E) all for the sake of winning the LDP's and the New Komeito's votes in favor of the passage of the bills raising the consumption tax.

Maybe. It depends on what one believes DPJ policies are.

If one takes the simplistic route, that DPJ policies are all the policies listed in the 2009 and 2010 manifestos, then the above assertions are true.

If, however, one takes the position that the policies listed in the 2009 manifesto were the ones Ozawa Ichiro tossed together trying to buy the support of every special interest the LDP, in its internal shift to becoming a modern, urban-based party, had left lying in the dust, without any concern as to whether the resulting program was internally consistent or affordable -- i.e., LIES -- then:

a) the DPJ is a party of lies and liars, and thus their promises are worthless rhetoric, not policies, or

b) the promises made in the 2009 manifesto, which Kan Naoto tried desperately to render more concrete and believable in the 2010 manifesto, were never the policies of the DPJ, just electoral dandruff clinging to Ozawa Ichiro's jacket.

When Ozawa loyalist and true believer Kawauchi Hiroshi wails about the impending deal on the sheaf of bills reforming the pension and tax systems...
"The LDP's proposal is unacceptable. If we were to agree, the DPJ would become the LDP."
...he is not only showing that he is more a courtier than a politician but also a poor student of history. Fiscal consolidation, realistic pension funding schemes and a willingness to sacrifice growth for stability are core policy positions of the original DPJ. These were the principles undergirding the August 2005 party platform, under then party leader, now Deputy Prime Minister Okada Katsuya.

That DPJ co-founder Hatoyama Yukio forgets what he used to believe and defends the 2009 manifesto as holy writ (J) is neither implausible nor particularly significant. Like the White Queen, Hatoyama can believe a half a dozen impossible things before breakfast.

What the representatives of the DPJ, the LDP and the New Komeito are going to be banging heads over today are the remnants of the fight. The DPJ has a rather weaker position due to the PM's having set a deadline. This prevents the DPJ from exercising its ultimate weapon of extending the Diet session, forcing everyone to just sit on their tailbones until the LDP and the New Komeito fall into bickering in between themselves over just who is preventing the passage of their favorite bits of legislation. It should surprise no one that the DPJ has chosen this moment to float a trial balloon for a radical restructuring of both the LDP's and the DPJ's plans to reform the House of Representatives which hews close to what the New Komeito has been proposing and which would mess up the proportional seat voting for the LDP (E) -- just at the moment the LDP is showing strength in that half of the ballot.

All could go haywire at the last moment. Someone could say something untoward about someone else's sister, leading to a termination of negotiations.

All indications are, however, is that what we are seeing is the end game, one where the LDP and the New Komeito will wander away from the table having agreed to have their members vote with the government on a raft of bills, with neither the promise for elections nor the Noda repudiation of Ozawa Ichiro which the two parties had been demanding.

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