Sunday, June 24, 2012
It’s a Post-election Grand Coalition… or Instability/Gridlock Followed by Party Realignment
Most of the attention from the media, political analysts and other pundits has been focused on the number of lower house DPJ members that Ozawa can muster to oppose the upcoming lower house vote on the consumption tax hike bill and whether or not the Noda administration will expel them from the DPJ when they do. There is also some talk around the number of DPJ abstentions, which is relevant to the numbers game if the Noda administration decides to kick out the nays but let the abstainers off with a suspension or less*.
The actual numbers—51/54 defections in the lower house mean that the DPJ/coalition turns into a minority there. Such a near-term outcome will certainly be significant politically, and opposition parties. The media will milk it for all it’s worth, and the consequent perceptions may very well affect the outcome of the next general election and its aftermath. However, it is near-irrelevant from an immediate legislative perspective since no legislative bills will be passed before the election without acquiescence from the LDP-Komeito tag team in the upper house.
I am surprised at how little attention is being paid to the parallel political crisis in the upper house, where one MSM report has an anonymous Ozawa capo claiming that the Ozawa group has 18 of its 30 upper members lined up to oppose the consumption tax hike when the time comes for that house to vote on the bill. Again, it is true that this will have little effect on the pre-election legislative agenda for the same reason as the defections in the lower house. But Ozawa only needs 6 upper house defectors to deny an upper house majority to a hypothetical post-election DPJ-People’s New Party-Komeito coalition. And the problem to adding more non-LDP partners to this ménage-a-trois is that most of the non-Komeito, non-LDP opposition will be running fiercely anti-consumption tax hike campaigns (and are irrelevant, as in the case of the Socialists and Communists, and/or insane, as in the case of the Happiness Realization Party). Thus, any coalition for an upper house majority that does not involve the LDP will be exceedingly hard to form—or maintain in the unlikely event that it can be done. This upper house situation will be the one known factor around the post-election circumstances that should drive a Grand Coalition—or legislative instability and gridlock, and precipitous political realignment**. There are too many moving parts in the lead-up to the lower house election to narrow the scope of possibilities. But the upper house situation lends more certainty to the likely outcomes and therefore deserves more attention.
Of course the Noda administration could as a matter of logic do a Koizumi and try to keep the upper house nays in the DPJ. But this will fail since the upper house dissidents will surely follow their lower house sibling exiles into the wilderness.
* From a purely housekeeping point of view, it makes sense for Prime Minister Noda administration hand out, say, a three-month suspension to the defectors—thus keeping them in the tent but out of the September leadership election and letting the abstainers off with a wrist slap. I don’t think that this will happen; the media fallout will be significant. Besides, the nays are likely to bolt anyway, making the Noda administration even more pathetic.
** I have an email exchange on the likely dissidents that I’ve shared with a group of academic friends and their colleagues. I may brush up my end of the exchange for later posting. I also made some observations about the MSM’s treatment of an alleged letter from Ozawa’s ex-wife containing damaging claims about his post-3.11 cowardice, which I may post later.