Hidenao Nakagawa, the LDP Secretary-General cum enforcer, told the Japanese media in Mexico, where I think he is helping Felipe Calderón inaugurate his presidency, that the rebels who lost to "assassins" in last year's Lower House General Election and want to stand for next year's Upper House election from the LDP will have to do better than say "Yessir!"; that they'll have to jump higher than the Magnificent 11 who kicked LDP Lower House butts. To wit:
"The current Lower House members were chosen in elections, voted to pass the Post Office Privatization, and voted for Abe for prime minister. Yet we said that wasn't enough, and had them submit written oaths [to resign their seats if they vote against a party decision]." (translation from Dec. 2 Yomiuri)
It does make a kind of perverted sense. After all, if someone who gains his constituency's mandate by running against privatization not only is willing to ignore that mandate by voting for that same bill, but also to sacrifice that mandate altogether in favor of party discipline, then surely the losers should do something to prove that they too will defy their supporters in favor of party politics. Or something of the sort. Their supporters will be disgusted, but…
Actually, not. All that their supporters want is for their guys to get back in the good graces of the LDP powers that be. And Mr. Nakagawa is not demanding some kind of kugatachi (think, Shadrach, Mishach, Abendego… the children were so happy, they ran (finger snappin') straight back into the fire…, but I digress); he wants them to prove that they can bring out the votes, is what he wants.
Once upon a time, carrots were the stock in trade of the Director-Generals. They supplemented whatever monies the habatsu chieftains were able to shell out on their own. But with the factions weakened beyond recognition and party membership for a Diet member worth 30 million yen per year in state funds (independents get zero), the stick has become extremely valuable. All this was set in motion in the 1993-94 political reform under the Hosokawa coalition government. Junichiro Koizumi put the finishing touches on that one, and Shinzo Abe is basking in afterglow.
Or is he? Mr. Abe seems to be, if anything, missing in action on this one. In fact, he seems to be torn between his well-known sympathy for the anti-privatization sentiments of the Post Office mutineers and his legacy from Mr. Koizumi, with whom he has few natural affinities.
Here, as on so many other issues, Mr. Abe is stretched on the rack between his natural inclinations and the expedient, between his desire to get along, and his need to lead (or at least be seen to, which is the same thing). Lacking Mr. Koizumi's talent for furiously running in place, he disappears.
That, and not the brouhaha over the Post Office rebels, is, in my view, the main reason for the decline in his popularity. Which, of course, is of little electoral relevance if the DPJ continue to drift, and the economy holds firm until next year's Upper House election.
And last but not least, a Happy Birthday to Me. Thanks, McP.