Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Post-Reshuffle Trivia and Speculation on the Counter-Terrorism Act Showdown

I expect a well-rounded English-language recap of the new Cabinet and it implications, past present and future from one of the weekly magazines. In the meantime, there are the bloggers, who provide the color commentary. As such, I offer you some things that caught my attention.

The Upper House LDP had feared that they would lose one of the two seats; they managed to keep both. But they are not happy. Rather, Upper House LDP member Tetsuro Yano is furious. Mr. Yano was widely assumed to have the inside track on one of the Cabinet posts usually reserved for the Upper House, but was shut out. Yomiuri reports that he called the Prime Minister to protest. No class act, true, but it's hard to believe that it was all in his mind and nowhere else.

What is it with the Prime Minister and his ex-faction chief and predecessor Yoshiro Mori? Mr. Mori criticized Mr. Abe for keeping Nobuteru Ishihara (Chairman, Policy Deliberation Commission), Yoshimi Watanabe (Minister for Financial Affairs, etc.) and Akira Amari (METI Minister), saying, "[The first Cabinet] included younger 'children' and was called the 'Friends Cabinet.' That was the 'first year class [of the three-year kindergarten]', but I feel that this one has become a little more 'second year class'. He came down especially hard on Mr. Ishihara (Lower House, Tokyo District No.8), claiming that the LDP needed a Policy Deliberation Commission Chairman (one of the Big Three party posts) from the peripheral provinces (地方chihou, usually - and somewhat misleadingly - referred to as "rural areas"). He had made specific suggestions (again publicly) in the make up of the Cabinet and LDP leadership in the week before the reshuffle. Last year, in the Koizumi succession race, He had openly lobbied for Mr. Abe to step aside in order to allow Yasuo Fukuda to get first crack, to no avail. Perhaps he has never gotten over that double show of disrespect for the natural order of things (leader-follower relationship, seniority).

Yomiuri says Makoto Koga was indeed tapped to be the Chairman of the General Council, on of the Big Three party posts, but had declined, opening the way for Toshihiro Nikai. Perhaps he felt offended at being asked to succeed Yuya Niwa his co-head of the Niwa-Koga faction. The two have a troubled relationship Think, Octavian and Mark Anthony, Stalin and Trotsky.

If this were an action movie, the first climax comes over the extension of the counter-terrorism act. The Abe administration is giving every indication that they are willing to compromise on a deal that could include Iraq. It has the right people in the right places saying the right things. If there is no deal, the LDP should be able to pass a new law to its own liking, while bridging the gap between the old and new legislation by emergency logistical arrangements that have US and/or Australian vessels taking up the slack for a few months while the Japanese vessels dutifully shift out then back in to the Indian Ocean. I have no way of determining whether or not such a thing is possible, but it is at least conceivable, and the allied forces would be incredibly stupid not to have worked out such contingency plans. Faced with such a choice, my guess is that Ozawa/DPJ will take the deal that it can get and declare victory and claim – with justification - that it has acted responsibly.

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