Friday, August 29, 2008

Mama’s Got a Squeeze Box the Media Never Sleeps All Night; or, The Strange Saga of the DPJ Mini-Rebellion

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.


Janne Morén said...

Just now seeing this on TV. The breakouters did not seem particularly well prepared to handle Himei's reverse defection (de-defection?). They did not seem very happy over the focus being on her not jumping ship - rather than on themselves - either.

What if the happy foursome does not find a fifth playmate? Is the lack of government funding a minor setback or a major crisis?

Janne Morén said...

Oh, and just after this they showed a piece from Mr Ota's press conference. That has got to be the most inarticulate performance this side of a heavyweight boxing champion interview. Is he really, really sure he is a politician?

Jun Okumura said...

No wonder, Janne. They didn't really know what was going on. Losing Ms. Himei is a relatively minor setback in terms of financing Mssrs. Watanabe and Oe have long cultivated their own grade-B political machines, and the two independents are only losing what they already had.

The loss is much more a political one, in that it takes wind out of their sails.

As for Mr. Oota, he's come up with physical evidence (mostly receipts) for all but the "personnel costs", and claims the right to privacy for the recipients as the reason for the omission. If I were the DPJ, I would challenge him to allow a third party with client-confidence protection, say a lawyer or CPA, to check the records and issue a bill of health for him. Come to think of it, why doesn't Mr. Oota do that in the first place? If he's being truthful, that would kill the controversy once and for all.