Saturday, September 15, 2007

Some Thoughts on The Fukuda Administration and Somewhat Beyond

Some pungent words were used in the creation of this post. They have been maintained in the interests of preserving the original intent of the author. This is in no way to be interpreted as a general endorsement of offensive language in public discourse.

Here are my answers to questions that I received, as well as my comments on some points to the article that was attached to it. They have been edited for use as a blog post. I've omitted anything that has become irrelevant, such as comments based on the article's assumption (as well as mine at the time that the article was written) that Taro Aso R.I.P. was the likely successor. If my comments appear to be selective and disconnected, it's a long article, and I merely touched on the points where I believed that I had something meaningful to add.

1. Here, near the bottom, is my latest take on how long it will be before the next Lower House general election. As a subsequent development:

Yomiuri quotes Takeo Yasuo Fukuda saying,"I would like to search [for the right timing to dissolve the Lower House]. At a minimum, the (FY 2008) budget should be passed." This gives us a May election at the earliest. He adds, "When there is an important bill (in the regular Diet session), there could be an occasion to discuss the timing of dissolution with the DPJ and other opposition parties."

If I had to parse his words, I'd say that he's telling us that if the DPJ is so obstructionist that it won't let anything pass without a revote and the public sees the DPJ in that light as well, he's willing to let the LDP take a few losses, mainly Daizo Sugimura and other flaky specimens from the Koizumi Kids gang, in exchange for a near 3-year extension on the Lower House mandate for the coalition government. In that case, he'll fill out his term and, if it's what he wants, possibly (ed. inadvertently omitted when first posted) more.

2. I don't think that Mr. Fukuda needs to make that many changes in substance in the course that the Abe administration had been taking on its own. I firmly believe that Mr. Abe's fall is attributable to the who's and how's of his rule, or lack there of. Mr. Fukuda is being welcomed as the antithesis there. Having said that, I expect him to talk with a wee bit more honesty about the consumption tax, but I think that the majority of the public will support him there, as long as he looks competent in keeping down expenditures while immediately shifting a good portion of it - say 500 billion yen? – to high-profile, disparity-correcting measures.

Mr. Fukuda will be smart to keep Yoichi Masuzoe to deal with The Public Pension 50,000,000. (He, along with Masahiko Komura (for purely political reasons in his case) and Nobutaka Machimura and/or Kaoru Yosano (for mainly but not purely political reasons), would be my holdovers.) There's only so much you can do about that shit, so the Fukuda administration must show that it is peeing "bloody urine" to that end, and make sure that the bureaucracy is seen to be paying for the mess. Mr. Masuzoe is the ideal hit man/public face for that.

I'm relatively skeptical about the conventional wisdom of the importance of the disparity issue to the Upper House election results and, more generally, the unpopularity of the Abe administration. However, it has become the trope, the problem, so the Fukuda administration must be seen to be doing something effective about it, or it will fail to claw back those Upper House seats in the outlying Prefectures. But the ruling coalition must to be careful; there's the urban lower-class phenomenon as well. These are two very different sets of the dispossessed.

3. In talking about Abe's vision for a broader Japanese role in the region, it must be kept in mind that revision of the "pacifist clause" in Article 9 and the reinterpretation of the concept of collective self-defense are connected but not necessarily synchronistic. The conceptual reinterpretation can be put into play and implemented if and when it is convenient to do so. It will take the aligning of many stars; still, it's a far cry from the difficulties of the Constitutional amendment process. Moreover, that is sufficient in order to expand Japan's regional role. It is, I believe, in the context of Japan's global aspirations that Constitutional rearrangements are in order.

4. True, the Fukuda administration will have to prioritize regaining public support, which may come at the expense of attention to key foreign policy issues, most significantly the North Korean nuclear issue. Still, this is at least better than the virtual paralysis under the Abe administration at its most potent. Even a cautious, tentative Fukuda administration has some chance of easing economic sanctions - the Abe administration rashly if understandably linked them to the abductees issues in October 2006 - if a nuclear deal is in the offing.

5. The speed with which the LDP rallied around Fukuda and the structural soundness of the LDP-New Komeito, which I explain here argues strongly against the return of the string of weak, short-term Prime Ministers during much of the '90s.

6. Barring a stunning turnaround by Ichiro Ozawa, there's going to be a one- to two-month gap in the JSDM refueling operations while the coalition engineers a low-key, Lower House revote event, and no amount of yelling and screaming by anyone, including US policymakers, is going to prevent it. So they should sit back, and quietly let on that it's going to be a very unfortunate turn of events in term of short-term logistics, but no big deal politically. I'm not worried. US policymakers are not that stupid, and, besides, neither the Bush administration nor the Congress has the people (in the former case) or the time (in both cases) to worry about this shit.

No comments: