After the Prime Minister’s policy speech at the beginning of a Diet session, the two Houses each hold plenary Q&A sessions where party leaders get a chance to take a crack at the Prime Minister. The Lower House goes firs. Yesterday, on the first day, the DPJ and LDP took turns: for the DPJ, Ichiro Ozawa and his deputy Yukio Hatoyama; for the LDP, Mr. Aso’s party deputy Hiroyuki Hosoda.
The questions are always prefaced by statements. Mr. Ozawa did not even bother to ask a question. Instead, he demanded that the LDP vacate the Prime Minister’s chair to the opposition and open the way to an immediate election, then went on to give an exposition of the DPJ’s post-election plans—an outline of the new election manifesto in the works. So the Prime Minister opened with questions and the opposition leader countered with a policy statement. Fair is foul and foul is fair. The questions aside, Mr. Hatoyama also went after the LDP, while Mr. Hosoda went after Mr. Ozawa—an indication of where the DPJ and LDP each think that the weakness of its opponent lies.
In his response, Mr. Aso repeated his three-point agenda for this Diet session, that is, the fiscal stimulus/consumer protection agency/refueling operations package. On that, I’m changing my call: I see zero chance of bipartisan compromise on the consumer protection agency. The LDP-New Komeito coalition will have to use the Lower House supermajority override to get this one. The DPJ is not going to let Mr. Aso go into the Lower House general election as an outgoing, can-do leader against a destructive, old-school spendthrift politico if it can help it. The DPJ scenario has a reformist party working for you taking down a political bankrupt LDP beholden to the bureaucracy. Any bipartisan agreement will have to be on DPJ terms, not the Prime Minister’s.