All the suspense went out of the process when they announced the party member/official supporter voting results 249 – 51, giving Kan an insurmountable lead. And the 206 – 200 Diet member split (412 – 400 for the point count) that gave Kan the victory in a 3 – 0 unanimous decision (60 – 40 for the municipal and prefectural assemblymen vote) has symbolic value. More significant, though, is the fact that nearly half of DPJ Diet members and two-fifths of the party-faithful preferred someone who had to give up control over the party coffers and party assignments due to political financing scandals that may result in his criminal prosecution as early as next month. That’s not exactly a vote of confidence for Kan.
I do not think that Ozawa is going to try to engineer a split any time soon, if only because a mere fraction of the 201 is likely to follow him into penurious exile. There will be much greater temptation to foment rebellion as the August 2013 deadline for the next general Lower House election approaches, but my money is on a strong challenge from one or more candidates—not Ozawa—in July 2012, when Kan comes up for reelection as DPJ chief. At that point, temptation will be strong to elect a new leader, who can call a snap election before the afterglow dies off. The DPJ can worry about the 2013 Upper House election later. There’s also a good chance of switching party allegiances and maybe even major realignment just before the Lower House election. If Ozawa is going to make a move, it’s most likely to happen then.
Kan did well in the metropolitan areas, while Ozawa did well in the periphery. I think that this reflects real, substantive differences that were evident even if many of Ozawa’s major policy pronouncements were opportunistic and ill-thought out. Can the DPJ forge a coherent set of policies that makes sense for the long-term wellbeing of the Japanese economy while satisfying both ends of the political geography?
Is Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshito Sengoku Prime Minister Kan’s Masaharu Gotoda? He sees to have the intellect and some of the moxy of Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone’s majordomo, and also manages to cloak his personal ambitions, if any (Gotoda was biologically too old and politically too junior to have any), for higher office. Of course any analogy breaks down at the Kan/ Nakasone level…
Forging an official bicameral majority that shares cabinet and sub-cabinet posts seems next to impossible to me. (I happen to think that, contrary to the majority view, it would have been even more unlikely under Ozawa. But we’ll almost surely never know.) However, flexible, multiple, issue-oriented alliances are eminently doable; if you don’t believe that, look at the substantial, if diminished, amount of legislation that got done without resort to a Lower House override after the LDP-Komeito coalition government lost its Upper House majority in the 2007 election. I’m going to explore this angle and others in a talk that I’ll be giving in a couple of weeks and getting paid for! I may dribble some of my thoughts out over the coming days or, more likely (I’m a terrible procrastinator), present them after the event.