According to media reports, bowing to fiscal reality, the DPJ is now considering an income ceiling for the child allowance that it had promised in its election manifesto—and had already decided to cut by half for FY2010 for budgetary and other concerns. But the DPJ is not the only one doing a flip-flop. According to Yomiuri and Mainichi, the three-party talks this morning (Dec. 16) to hammer out an agreement on major budget items could not come to a conclusion on this point because the DSP was reluctant to agree to a ceiling. This interesting because the DSP had openly favored an income test at the beginning of the Hatoyama administration two months ago.
Now this may turn out to be an internal schism; SDP leader and Minister of State for Consumer Affairs and Food Safety, Social Affairs, and Gender Equality Mizuho Fukushima and SDP policy head Tomoko Abe, who represented the SDP at the meeting, reportedly do not get along with each other. But it’s also possible that the DSP is doing this just to embarrass the Hatoyama administration. The best DSP bet for surviving the 2010 House of Councilors election, i.e. deny the DPJ or a DPJ-PNP coalition an absolute majority, is to pry away as many floater voters away as possible from the DPJ and hope that they’ll at least abstain if not vote for the DSP. To that end, it should want to go into the election under a weak, unpopular Hatoyama administration, much in the way that the LDP did under the Abe and Aso administrations. Note that the perception that Hatoyama can be bullied makes defiance easier.
The DPJ and PNP will continue to test the limits of the coalition by doing their best to show up the Prime Minister and the DPJ. This is a part of the political dynamics that bears watching.