Wednesday, April 17, 2013

And In The End The Budget Passes Without Them

On April 9, Osaka City mayor and Japan Restoration Association co-leader Hashimoto Toru presented himself at the Prime Minister's Residence for a meeting with Prime Minister Abe Shinzo. During the meeting, the PM asked Hashimoto for JRA support of the Fiscal Year Heisei 25 budget bill.

As I pointed out yesterday morning, this request was superfluous and as such, rather peculiar.

The attempt to win the JRA's support was also, as it turned out, unsuccessful. The bill passed on the  greater-that-two-thirds majority the ruling coalition holds in the House of Representatives. The JRA and all the other opposition parties voted against the bill. (Link - J)

Housekeeping items of note:

1) No matter what the House of Councillors does with the bill -- and given yesterday's vote the chances are good that upper house will reject the bill -- the bill will become law on May 15 (see Article 60, Constitution of Japan).

This is the first time in 17 years that a budget bill will have been sitting in the Diet until May. The last time a budget kicked into gear this late was in 1996, when the Diet and indeed the country was torn asunder over the bailing out of the housing cooperatives (jusen) -- a battle over so little that was so bitter it delayed the much needed and much larger bank bad loan cleanup for half a decade.

No controversy so divisive prevents the Abe Cabinet and the ruling coalition from proceeding according to their needs -- indicating that the Abe II revolution, if that is what we are in, is not so much a movement as a dearth of movement.

2) Rather than seducing Hashimoto and the JRA into joining a winning team, Abe's odd courtship of last week seems to made them more ornery. Yesterday, the JRA joined the Your Party in offering a revised budget bill in plenary session -- the first time any party has tried that maneuver in sixty years. (Link - J)

The House of Representatives voted down the JRA-Your Party revised budget bill as well as Democratic Party of Japan's simple motion for a reconsideration of the budget.

Abe and the LDP can still pin their hopes on anti-liberal forces in the Diet joining hands in revisions of the Constitution. Hashimoto has been making all the right noises about a melding of minds on that score. (Link - J video)

However, Hashimoto's program is one of comprehensive and expansive revision, going after not just Article 96 and Article 9 -- Abe and the LDP's big bugaboos -- but also Article 59 (Hashimoto wants a unicameral legislature or at least a change of the 2/3rds majority requirement for a House of Representatives override - Link - J) and most if not all of Chapter VIII ("Local Self Government"). (Link - J)

Hashimoto tends to be a "my way or the highway" absolutist, making the prospects for LDP-JRA cooperation dim even after the dust clears following this summer's House of Councillors elections. A fragile Ishihara Shintaro (yesterday a Diet staffer helped guide Ishihara's hand toward the right ballot collector) will likely not be much of a restraint on Hashimoto's uncompromising love of the totality of his own ideas.

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