Friday, October 12, 2012

The DPJ Goes To The Four Corners

Yesterday, Prime Minister Noda Yoshihiko had a first face-to-face good-fellow-well-met confab between himself and the recently elected Liberal Democratic Party President Abe Shinzo.

By "recently elected" I mean 16 days ago.

Accompanying both men were the main members of their new party secretariats.

By "new" I mean appointed 14 days ago.

The delay in getting the two party leaderships together is understandable. Noda had to reshuffle the Cabinet: that happened on October 1st. Then the new Cabinet ministers had to get comfortable in their new chairs. Then there was the Sports Day three day weekend...

OK, so the scheduling may not have been done with any degree of expeditiousness.

However, yesterday, the two lineups of men (and yes, it was all this really an advanced post-industrial society?) got together over a table and got down to work.

And, after an eventful and likely exhausting five minutes, they ended their meeting.

Prime Minister Noda, with a dramatic flourish, told Abe that the two of them really have to together soon with Yamaguchi Natsuo, the leader of the New Komeito, to discuss the extraordinary Diet session. (J)

Meanwhile, in another part of the Diet Building, six members of the Administrative Oversight Subcommittee of the House of Representatives Committee on Audit and Administrative Oversight sat twiddling their thumbs.

The six members of the subcommittee -- four from the Liberal Democratic Party, one from Ozawa Ichiro's People's Life Party and one from the New Komeito, had responded to a call from the subcommittee's chairman, a member of the LDP*, to an emergency, extra-Diet Session meeting to examine dereliction of duty in the disbursal of the funds from the supplementary budget for the recovery and reconstruction in the disaster zones of the Tohoku and Fukushima Prefecture.

The reason the six members of the subcommittee were hard at work developing their thumb muscles was that none of the eight Democratic Party of Japan members of the subcommittee showed up to the emergency meeting. Had even a single member of the DPJ showed, the committee would have had a quorum, and could set to work investigating the allegations of fraud and mismanagement. (J)

Or at least they might have tried to do so, only to be stymied by the DPJ-led government's having told the summoned relevant ministry officials not to leave their offices to appear at a meeting that was not going to happen.

The DPJ had an explanation for not responding to the chairman's call. The lengthy process of winnowing through the appointments of new senior vice ministers/state ministers and parliamentary vice-ministers after a Cabinet reshuffle had turned out to be just that, lengthy, and the DPJ secretariat had not had the time to select a new Ranking Member for the subcommittee. Without a Ranking Member how could any of the other members show up?

You know how it is...

Tick, tick, tick...

Funny thing that Abe and Yamaguchi are learning about Noda. If, following your election, or in Yamaguchi's case reelection, to the position leader of your party the first thing you promise to your followers is that you will bring them the head of the current government on a platter, that head is not terribly inclined to facilitate your delivering on that promise. Indeed, however he might not want to embarrass you in front of your peers, he has an incentive to stall, delay, prevaricate, stonewall -- all to keep his head right where it is.

Noda Yoshihiko promised the hapless former LDP president Tanigaki Sadakazu in a private one-on-one meeting that in return for cooperation on the package of social welfare reforms bills including the consumption tax bill, the bond issuance bill and a bill reforming the electoral districts, he, Noda, would dissolve the Diet "soon" (chikai uchi ni).

Both Houses of the Diet passed the package of bills on social welfare reform, including the consumption tax bill.

However, when it became clear that Noda and the DPJ were stalling on the submission of the two additional bills, this in order that the two bills would fail to wend their way through the relevant Diet committees and plenary sessions before the September 8 end of the regular Diet session, Tanigaki lost his nerve. He tried, ex post facto, to get Noda to commit to a date certain for the Diet dissolution. He failed to bullrush the stolid Noda. At which point all hell broke loose: a fumbled no-confidence motion; the DPJ's ramming through the House of Representatives its versions of the two bills; the LDP voting in the House of Councillors for a motion of censure condemning its own actions; and the crashing to a halt of the House of Councillors session well before the deadline, leading to the death on the doorstep of the House of Councillors of the bond issuance and electoral reform bills.

Quite an interesting summer.

Anyway, with the two bills dead and Tanigaki gone as LDP president, the seemingly imperturbable Noda is now looking to Abe and Yamaguchi to forget all about that silly "soon" business.

As for Azumi Jun, the former minister of finance, who went about the halls of the Diet sweating and writhing throughout the month of August, it seems possible he may have lied exaggerated about the extent to which Japan faces fiscal disaster should the bond issuance bill fail to be passed this month.

Oh, the duplicitous knave -- I mean, DPJ Acting Secretary-General!

Certainly no one is doing now the panic dance he was doing just two months ago.

So what's bottom line? When will the Noda and DPJ stop their delaying tactics and start playing ball?

Oh, how Abe and Yamaguchi would love to know the answer to that question.

Perhaps they will find out when the two of them have their têtes-à-tête with the prime minister.

Sometime soon, just like he said.

* While the committee chairs in the House of Representatives are all held by members of the ruling coalition, subcommittee chairmanships are distributed to members of the opposition out of courtesy.

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