Saturday, October 27, 2012

Shutting The Door In Noda's Face

On October 29, the much-delayed fall Extraordinatry Session of the Diet will open. In the House of Representatives, the first order of business will be the Prime Minister's delivery of his Policy Address, outlining what he and his Cabinet intend to accomplish in the session.

Under normal circumstances, the Prime Minister would then move to the House of Councillors chamber, to deliver the same Policy Address.

However, Prime Minister Noda Yoshihiko will not be delivering his address to the House of Councillors. In an agreement worked out between the heads of all the opposition parties, who together control the majority of seats in the House of Councillors, the doors of the chamber will be shut to him, and the day will pass without his addressing the Senators. (Link - J)

Now this is a decidedly peculiar beginning to a session of the Diet. However, Noda has infuriated the opposition parties, particularly the Liberal Democratic Party, by his refusal to dissolve the Diet and hold elections before the year is out. Indeed, after privately promising the former LDP president Tanigaki Sadakazu that he would call elections "soon" (chikai uchi ni), Noda has refused to name a date for the Diet's dissolution. The delay of the opening of the Extraordinary Session until the final days of October indeed guarantees that there will be no election this year, there being not enough time for the drawing of an unimpeachable, constitutional revision of the House of Representatives electoral map and for a legal declaration of candidates for office. (Link)

More pointedly and pettily, the current House of Councillors censured the Prime Minister at the tail end of the Regular Session. Though s censure motion has no legal force behind it and ceased to be meaningful following the closure of the Regular Session on September 8, the PM is still in essence and perhaps in perpetuity persona non grata in the House of Councillors, even before yesterday's formal agreement among the opposition parties to bar the doors to his entry.

If the Prime Minister and the Democratic Party of Japan wanted to, and the President of the House of Councillors agreed to it, the DPJ members of the House of Councillors, who by themselves represent a quorum, could presumably open up the doors of the House of Councillors, invite the PM in and and sit and listen to him deliver his Policy Address.

Even if the PM and the DPJ could pull off this trick and get out of the Diet building before the opposition arrived -- which is unlikely as the Diet members' offices are across the street from the Diet Building -- there would be no point in such a gesture, aside from striking back at the opposition's insulting refusal to listen to a presentation by the head of the government. The opposition would simply censure the prime minister again, bringing the Extraordinary Session to a halt before it had even begun.

So Prime Minister Noda will suffer a stunning slight on October 29, the first time a prime minister has been denied the opportunity to deliver a policy address since the present constitution was adopted. He is probably overjoyed at the prospect, as not having to address the House of Councillors will free up a couple of otherwise wasted hours in the middle of a busy workday.

In an interesting twist, the LDP caucus in the House of Councillors is picking a fight with the LDP caucus in the House of Representatives over the use of pressure tactics. The LDP caucus in the House of Councillors is raring to insult the prime minister as regards the policy address. However, it is agnostic as regards withholding approval on the bond issuance bill until the Noda government has coughed up electoral district reform legislation that both pleases the LDP-New Komeito opposition alliance and hastens the government's demise -- a request that the Noda government has been reticent to honor. Mizote Kensei, the LDP's House of Councillors Secretary-General, has stated that Diet dissolutions are a House of Representatives affair, House of Councillors members being elected for fixed terms. If a bond issuance bill emerges from the House of Representatives, which it can thanks to the ruling DPJ-People's New Party coalition's still holding a thin numerical majority in that House, then, according to Mizote, "The bill will pass in my House." (Link - J)

If Mizote is not just blowing smoke, and Prime Minister Noda can count on the House of Councillors passing the bond issuance bill for the price of insulting him like no prime minister ever has been insulted before, he will take that deal.

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