Tuesday, March 23, 2010

From Dismissal to Reassignment to Good Job, Yukio: The Rehabilitation of Yet Another Yukio and What It Means

On 17 March, Yukio Ubukata, one of thirteen DPJ deputy director-generals—off topic, but that’s lot of DPJ deputies, a revealing detail in itself— gave an interview to Sankei Shimbun, the nationalist/free-market conservative daily, in which he offered a scathing criticism of the concentration of power in the hands of Ichiro Ozawa, the director-general, and the stifling effect that it had on DPJ policy-making. He went on to take Ozawa to task for failing to provide an adequate explanation of his complex political financing operations that brought criminal indictments to three of his political assistants past and present including an incumbent Lower House member, saying that “I guess [Mr. Ozawa] can’t explain.”

Retribution appeared to come swiftly. By the 19th, two days later, Ozawa had reportedly given the nod to Ubukata’s dismissal, which would be formalized at a couple of regular party leadership sessions on the 23rd. As the media unanimously came down against this decision, the decision was downgraded over the weekend to a less punitive “reassignment.” Today, the DPJ canceled the leadership meetings, Ozawa and Ubukata kissed and made up—okay, made up—and Ubukata agreed to stay on, with Ozawa’s blessing.

Now here’s the DPJ’s problem:
Ichiro Ozawa has serious, multiple, political financing issues that brought criminal indictments on three of his aides past and present. He dismisses questions with the assertion that the Public Prosecutors Office has given him a clean bill of health. Only a small proportion of the Japanese public swallow that claim or what little explanation he has given in the past. Few if any mainstream figures outside the circle of DPJ Diet members loyal to him are willing to defend him publicly.

Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama has serious political financing issues that have brought a criminal indictment on a couple of his (now) ex-aides. Hatoyama claims innocence, but doubts remain. Nevertheless, there’s a widespread public perception that Hatoyama is just flaky enough that he may actually have been unaware of the goings-on. In any case, the public is more forgiving—if more scornful—of Hatoyama, since the million-dollar plus equivalent of illegal cash flowing annually into his political coffers came from his mom’s bank account and his own.

Tomohiro Ishikawa is Ozawa’s ex-aide Diet member under criminal indictment. He has left the DPJ of his own volition, but has not resigned from the Diet.

Chiyomi Kobayashi is a Lower House member from Hokkaido whose ex-deputy campaign manager is appealing a conviction for election campaign violations. If his appeals are rejected, Kobayashi will automatic lose her seat under Japanese law. Her fortunes took a further turn for the worse on 22 March when, in a different case, the Hokkaido Teachers Union and two of its leaders were indicted for making illegal campaign donations to Kobayashi, who was called in for questioning but was not indicted. She held a press conference the same day, in which she stated that she would not resign or leave the party.
Public opinion aside, it becomes evident why the DPJ cannot dismiss/reassign Ubukata, or otherwise punish anyone else who speaks up or otherwise embarrasses the party short of a criminal sentence whose appeal has been rejected conclusively by the Supreme Court of Japan. The DPJ has a train of political domino tiles.

Couple this with the rise of the Your Party in the polls and its ability to find willing candidates—not up around twenty—for the July election is making my bet that the DPJ won’t lose more than five seats a little shakier than I had thought. However, I strongly suspect that some of the Your Party gain will come out of the LDP, so I’m still willing to take that wager for, say, a nice lunch—with each of the first five takers?

I’ll slice the odds to four seats for the first person who guesses the name of the “Other Yukio.”

Forgot to post the title. Out of practice, I guess.


Fernando said...

Edano, no favorite of Ozawa, but now Revitalization Minister?

Anonymous said...

Good to have you back Jun. Keep at it!

Jun Okumura said...


Bonus for first responder: I'll buy you lunch anyway if and/or when you're in Tokyo. I've put my email address back on my profile.