Friday, April 19, 2013

Bound Hand And Foot

In my most recent post on Abe Shinzo's soft and lazy tyranny, I referred to the New Komeito as a "restraint" upon Abe and the Liberal Democratic Party. Yesterday, in party leader's debate, Japan Restoration Party co-leader Ishihara Shintaro used a far more colorful term to describe the role the New Komeito will play in Abe & Company efforts to revise the Constitution:

"The New Komeito will without question become bindings on your hands and feet."

The term Ishihara used -- ashide matoi (足手まとい) -- is a pejorative, usually referring to clingy, needful persons rather than actual physical bindings.

Hecklers (The New Komeito has hecklers? Who knew?) immediately cried out, "Rude! Rude!" Ishihara, ever the self-assured provocateur, responded:

"What I am saying is the truth."

(Link - J)

So, a sign of the apocalypse: Ishihara Shintaro and MTC in agreement -- with the caveat that the Blinking One and I may not be copping the same attitude.

The great unfulfilled dream of the LDP is the revision of Article 9 of the Constitution. If the LDP joins forces with the JRA after the House of Councillors elections, the two parties could, with help from conservative independents and the DINOs inside the Democratic Party of Japan, get within striking distance of the 2/3rds majorities in both Houses of the Diet necessary for putting revisions of the Constitution to a national referendum.

One of the explanations for the pacifist New Komeito's continuing alliance with the LDP, an alliance that has persisted through thick and thin, with the New Komeito seeing its entire leadership go down to defeat in 2009, has been that the tie up keeps the LDP's commitment toward revision of Article 9 on an aspirational level.

With a seeming entente between the LDP and the JRA on lowering the 2/3rds threshold in Article 96, transforming constitutional revision into a cakewalk, New Komeito leader Yamaguchi Natsuo has issued a warning -- that no national consensus exists on a revision of Article 96. (Link - J)

The warning is something of a non sequitur. There is, as far as anyone knows, no national consensus on the LDP and the New Komeito controlling the government. However, because the two parties did well in the December 2012 elections, they do.

As for constitutional revision, the same principle should apply: if you have the votes, everything's on the table. Consensus is nice but nowhere in the rules. Only a believer in essentialist myths about a Japanese way would insist upon consensus being a prerequisite for action.

Despite Ishihara's labeling the New Komeito a shackle upon Abe Shinzo's and the LDP's ambitions, a JRA-New Komeito war is not preordained. Osaka City mayor and JRA co-leader has appealed to the Osaka New Komeito for its help in passing his municipal/prefectural reorganization plans, offering to cooperate with the New Komeito in national elections. The New Komeito also remained neutral in the gubernatorial and mayoral campaign last year, helping Hashimoto and his deputy Matsui Ichiro win both spots. (Link)

Furthermore, the JRA, which received an astonishing 12 million proportional seat votes in the December election and which is largely on course to pick up whatever seats the LDP and the New Komeito do not win in this summer's election, failed to win what should have been walkover municipal elections on April 14, revealing a precipitous deceleration in the forward momentum of the Hashimoto juggernaut. (Link - J)

We might be seeing Hashimoto paying a rare courtesy call on New Komeito members, asking them to quietly ignore the Sick Old Man and his "truths."

As for Article 9, the Cabinet has in its usual unanimous way (meaning with the New Komeito going along) just issued a Cabinet Decision approving a bill making it possible for members of the Ground Self Defense Forces to deploy for the purpose of facilitating the evacuation of Japanese citizens from foreign war zones or disaster areas. Until now, the law on Self Defense Forces overseas rescue dispatches only permitted the dispatch of Air Self Defense Forces planes and Maritime Self Defense Forces ships, with the transports and their crews confined to airport or port areas of the foreign country. (Link - J)

If the language of Article 9 can be construed as not impeding an armed and ready GSDF from driving around hither and yon in faraway conflict zones looking for folks to rescue, the imperative for revision of the article seems rather weak.

Later - For an English language report on the Cabinet Decision from Kyodo News via The Japan Times, click here.

Image courtesy: NHK

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