Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Six New Fredos

Fredo, you're nothing to me now. You're not a brother, you're not a friend. I don't want to know you or what you do.

- Michael Corleone, The Godfather, Part II (1974)
On Friday, six Democratic Party of Japan members of the House of Councillors voted against the ittai kaikaku reform bills, including the bill raising the consumption tax. These six defectors are new, not a part of the 12 DPJ members who left the party to join Ozawa Ichiro's People's Life First Party (33 days since its founding and still no party website) or the 3 who left to form the Green Wind caucus.

The six are:

Tokunaga Eri (Hokkaido district seat, elected in 2010)
Mito Masashi (Kanagawa district seat, elected in 2007)
Uematsu Emiko (Kagawa district seat, elected 2007)
Okubo Yukishige (Nagasaki district seat, elected 2007)
Arita Yoshibu (proportional list seat, elected 2010)
Tashiro Kaoru (proportional list seat, elected 2010)

Mito, Uematsu and Okubo face reelection next year,. The other members are in for the long haul. Like House of Representatives member Kawauchi Hiroshi, all six really belong inside the LF. However, they are far more useful to Ozawa as fifth columnists inside the DPJ. Through them he can still influence DPJ policies, even though he himself is no longer inside the DPJ.

The six cannot be expelled or even severely reprimanded. After the defections to the LF and the Green Wind in July, the DPJ is left with 85 members in its House caucus, only one member more than the Liberal Democratic Party. Were the six traitors of Friday to leave the DPJ, the party would fall to the #2 rank in the House, losing the majority of committee chairmanships and most likely the position of President of the House.

Ozawa knows the DPJ's loss of control of the House's chairmanships would eliminate his ability to influence politics. It should surprise no one that he has his acolytes remain inside the DPJ House of Councillors caucus.

Speaking of disobedience, the LDP has decided upon the punishments to be meted out to the seven of its members of its House of Representatives delegation who defied orders to abstain from voting on the no confidence motion against the Noda Cabinet. The seven will receive reprimands, the second strongest of the eight levels of punishment the party can mete out to its members. (J)

This slap on the wrist is surprising, as one of the sinners, Nakagawa Hidenao, was served with a six-month suspension of all party privileges for having abstained from the June House of Representatives vote on the consumption tax.

The leadership had solid reasons to be lenient. The participation of Shiozaki Yasuhisa in the mini-mutiny was a transparent threat of a greater hard-right rebellion against Machimura faction leader Machimura Nobutaka for his milquetoast leadership and his support of LDP president Tanigaki Sadakazu. A severe punishment could also push Koizumi Shinjiro to run in the next election as an independent, an outcome the LDP is desperate to avoid. Koizumi the Younger (Koizumi IV) is, as Okumura Jun has put it, the LDP’s Chosen One, the prophesied future leader of the party.

It would furthermore be the height of hypocrisy for the LDP to punish the seven for voting for a no confidence motion only a day after Tanigaki and the LDP leadership abandoned plans to submit their own no confidence motion.

So the six DPJ House of Councillors and the seven LDP House of Representatives members, traitors to the party line each and every one, are virtually untouchable.

The weak responses by both the party leaderships presages further breakdowns in party discipline. An inability to get a straight answer from the LDP will endanger Prime Minister Noda’s plan to squeeze the LDP into voting for the bill authorizing the issuance of new bonds. The LDP leadership is eager for a quick deal on a redistricting bill – a necessity as the dissolution of the House and the calling for new elections would plunge the country into an irrevocable extra-constitutional state. However, if the LDP cannot guarantee party unity on the bond bill, it is of little use to the DPJ as a negotiating partner.

Of course, what can be said of the LDP applies equally, if not more so, to the DPJ. True to the nature of its former leader Ozawa, who recruited the majority of the DPJ’s serving Diet members, party members seem to have only the weakest of understandings of the fundamental importance of loyalty to the party. Disagreements over policy have thus led to a splintering of the party, not along the ideological lines the pundits predicted three years ago, but on the degree of loyalty to Ozawa the person.

Later - This post has been edited for clarity.

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