Monday, July 23, 2007

Reuters Gets It about as Right as You Can in a Wire

If you have time to read only one article on the Upper House election, you can't do much better than this Reuters piece. No, it says little about the opposition, and I'm not quite convinced that "Foreign Minister Taro Aso, 66, who shares much of Abe's policy agenda and is known for his love of "manga" comics and for verbal gaffes, is widely seen as a frontrunner to replace Abe." And it relies heavily on two recent polls for material. Still, the writer appears to know what she's writing about, and it shows.

A couple of brief excerpts show how deftly she encapsulates Prime Minister Abe's dilemma

"The surveys by the Asahi and Sankei newspapers were the latest to forecast a loss for Abe's coalition after government bungling of pension records and a series of gaffes and scandals that led ministers to resign and one to commit suicide."

"Abe, 52, came to power last September pledging to boost Japan's security profile and rewrite the country's 1947 pacifist constitution.
Those changes would be welcome to the United States, Japan's closest security ally, but rank well below bread-and-butter issues such as pensions with most voters."

There are a couple of quotes in the article, but they both come from Professor Yasunori Sone, a well-regarded political scientist with excellent command of public trends and technical details.

Incidentally, there's some speculation about how the coalition can maintain a measure of control in the Upper House, so that it will be easier to use the Lower House supermajority to overrule UH simple-majority vetoes. That is, by registering as a joint Diet group in the UH, this would enable them to be the largest UH "party", which, by longstanding custom, would entitle them to occupy the UH presidency, chairmanships in the UH procedural committee, budget committee, and other venues important to maintaining and facilitating the flow of legislation and budget bills. There are many examples of such joint Diet groups consisting of opposition parties, sometimes in order to maintain parliamentary (Dietary?) privileges that are denied to small parties falling under a threshold.

I thought about that, but dismissed the possibility. The UH chairs are nowhere near as powerful their US counterparts in controlling the agenda over matters under their respective jurisdictions, and party discipline is almighty when it comes to individual voting. Thus, there is very little room to use your procedural control to pull away some UH Diet members from the opposition on individual issues. Also, such a naked play for power would play very badly in the public eye. Moreover, if it came to that, nothing would prevent the opposition from breaking longstanding tradition and getting behind a, say, DPJ candidate for the presidency and divvying up the rest of the prime UH chairmanships.

This is not discussed in the Reutersarticle, but since the UH-LH relationship is covered quite nicely in the article, I decided to mention it here.

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