Thursday, August 16, 2007

The Mainichi Says It's the Defense Minister Winning on Both Counts and Takes a Dig at the Prime Minister as Well

A Mainichi reporter has taken Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuhisa Shiozaki's statement that "the procedures are the problem, and I am not taking issue with the substance", and claiming this as evidence that Defense Minister Yuriko Koike will get her way and replace Takemasa Moriya, the current vice minister, with the Policy Agency transfer Tetsuya Nishikawa. So much for my prophetic powers, though the possibility remains that this is spin from the Koike camp.

But going by the headline, the real story here is:

The Defense Vice Minister: "Inexperience" Again on Personnel Issue. Voices of Doubt Raised at the "Wait-and-See" Prime Minister"

All eyes will be on the fate of Ms. Koike come August 27. And the well-traveled defense minister has enemies of her own. But I don't think that the prime minister can afford to kick her out of the Cabinet. And you know how my guesses work out.


Anonymous said...

This is not directly concerned with the Koike/Moriya row, but what is your understanding of the factional structure in the LDP at present. What does faction membership offer these days, and how do their policies differ? Grateful for advice.

Jun Okumura said...

Have to cook a late dinner now. Will post later, tomorrow, likely. Remind me if I don't. Here's the short answer.

Faction membership offers the same
things it always did, access to political funds and government and party positions. Problem is, these days, they have less money, and little control over minister portfolios. (I think they still matter at the deputy minister and parliamentary secretary level, but I'll have to check the lists of appointments against the habatsu to confirm this.) There'll be some push back this time around, since Prime Minster Abe botched his appointments first time around, but I don't think the habatsu will ever make it back to anywhere near where they used to be.

The demise of the multiple-seat electoral district in the Lower House is generally given the lion's share of the credit for their decline, but you have to recognize the pivotal role that Junichiro Koizumi played in exposing them for what they'd become.

And the habatsu was only vaguely connected to policy. It was devoted to winning, the ultimate prize being the premiership for the boss. This is no longer the raison d'etre.

Ross, correct me if I'm wrong.

Anonymous said...

Jun, Thanks for this explanation. I don't know much about this subject, but from what I have read I tend to agree with what you wrote.

At the same time, I wonder why so many of Koizumi's children eventually decided to enter factions when they had the express backing of Koizumi and the LDP Headquarters?

Did they find that they could not get along without being part of a faction, or did they see significant benefits in joining factions. The children did not "inherit" factional obligations of a voting base that required membership of a faction. Theirs is an interesting case.

And what do you make of the recent reports of opposition to Abe organising along faction lines? They referred to their policy tendencies as a _reason_ for expressing dislike of the Abe administration, i.e., they portrayed themselves as pro-reform. Did you read this as being only policy window dressing as they jockeyed for the top job and ministerial posts?

Also, what did you make of Abe's insistence that he would remain as prime minister? He said that he had a "mission" or a "destiny" to fulfill. Should we read this as being his, Abe's, own will and determination? Or was it the determination of his supporters or the heavyweights who put him there? Or was it both Abe's will _and_ the intention of the LDP heavyweights? It seemed hard to believe that Abe could have stayed without being visibly and invisibly receiving siginficant support.

Interested in your views. Best, T.

Jun Okumura said...


First, my apologies for not elaborating further on my habatsu comment. I'm easily distracted.

As for my response to your first question, I'm mildly surprised that there are still many first-term Diet members able to resist the call of the factions. Mr. Koizumi's support that they received in 2005 will have little to do with what kind of entry-level political appointee or party post they will get in, say, 2008, after they have their second Lower House election win under their belts. As for LDP HQ support, Tsutomu Takebe, the secretary-general who ran the 2005 election, launched an informal group of 24 junior Diet members consisting mostly of Koizumi Children. So, the real question is, do you stay on your own, cast your lot with a 66 year-old ex-SG who has no formal role at party HQ, or join a faction? There is little political continuity at party HQ. In that sense, the LDP is closer to American political parties than ideological or religious parties.

Are factions lining up for/against Mr. Abe? I could have missed something, but could you be referring to Taku Yamzaki and Sadakazu Tanigaki's criticism's of the prime minister? Being at the other end of the LDP political spectrum, that's not surprising.. But they only have 51 Diet members between them out of 313 LDP faction member MPs (the rest are unaffiliated), and the others do not seem to be lining up along factions lines, except to secure cabinet, sub-cabinet, and party posts (with the Upper House members acting as a cross-factional faction of its own for cabinet posts).

It's little more than a guess, but I think it was Mr. Abe's decision, and his alone, to stay on. It was widely reported on the JMSM that Yoshiro Mori, ex-Prime Minister and Koizumi-Abe minder, Hidenao Nakagawa, then LDP SG, and Mikio Aoki, head of the LDP Upper House members, went to the prime minister to tell him that the LDP was likely to lose too badly for him to stay on. Mr. Nakagawa gave what must have been a heavily censored version of the visit on national TV, which still made it clear that resignation was at least one of the possibilities that they had broached. If the trio had been really encouraging, I am sure that Mr. Nakagawa would have mentioned it in his interview. Mr. Mori has given a decidedly anemic version of his role in the talks as well. (I suspect that Mr. Mori still has not completely reconciled himself to the fact that Mr. Abe declined to respect seniority and defer to Yasuo Fukuda in 2006).

Behind that diffident, hands-off demeanor is a self-contained, quietly insistent man of strong, if sometimes shallow, convictions.