The LDP-New Kōmeito coalition decided they couldn’t run the risk of allowing the gasoline tax surcharge to lapse after March 31. Today, it told the opposition parties that they would submit a bill to the Lower House tomorrow for a 2-month extension, which would surely give it ample time to use its Lower House supermajority to override an Upper House veto (or inaction after 60 days). They obviously figured that the confusion of a temporary lapse and the public backlash from reinstating the surcharge would be too much of a political risk to run*.
As I’ve said, there’ll be no turning back now. However, both sides will keep a close eye on public opinion (the DPJ in particular – it’s their modus operandi, while the LDP is more responsive to the status quo). You can bet the LDP and the DPJ will be running private polls of their own through major PR agencies to guide them through the turbulent months ahead. All this is bad for statecraft, mind you, but it will provide much fodder and guilty pleasure for us bloggers.
* Objectively speaking, this is a very sensible thing to do, no matter what the ultimate conclusion winds up being. But given the fact that no coalition member stands ready to be swayed by arguments to the contrary, I understand the opposition’s fury.
I had guessed here that the coalition would take a more conciliatory approach. Not for the first time... I’ll keep making these calls, though, because it’s an excellent learning tool. It helps me understand the political process, as well as my strengths and weaknesses. Looking back, I do appear to have a bias towards the softer conclusions. Wimp. In the future, I’ll try to follow more closely my rational, fact-based self.