I had argued before that it didn’t make political sense for Hideo Watanabe and Yasuhiro Oe, the two most rebellious DPJ Upper House members, to make a break for it. Yesterday, they made a fool of me by announcing that they would be taking fellow Upper House member ready-for-WaiWai Yukiko Himei along to join two independents, quasi-LDP Hiroyuki Arai and DPJ dropout Shinpei Masushita, in forming a five-member political party entitled Kaikaku Kurabu (Reform Club). LDP Number Two and heir-apparent Taro Aso made no effort to discourage media reports that claim that he engineered the operation, which has taken some of the wind out of DPJ sails. Today, the DPJ did an Elmore-Leonard switcheroo in a press conference held by Ms. Himei, attended by DPJ leaders Yukio Hatoyama, Naoto Kan and Azuma Koshiishi, where she decided that she wouldn’t be defecting after all. The flamboyant Ms. Himei had been the big surprise of the Reform Club, since she had not crossed party lines to vote for the gasoline surcharge reinstatement or the BOJ Governor and Deputy-Governor candidates.
The effect of the new party on the lead-up to the next Lower House election was minimal in the first place, since the recalcitrant pair had been voting against the party line already. The Reform Club merely formalizes this relationship. My guess is that Mr. Aso is furiously combing the ranks of KDP-freindly independents (say, Takeo Hiranuma?) to become the fifth Diet member necessary to meet minimum requirements for government stipends to political parties.