Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Would a General Council Have Kept VAT Deniers in Line?

I’ve been taking part in an email discussion, where one party is asserting that it would have helped the DPJ to have an institution like the LDP Somukai, or General Council, as a clear decision-making institution providing results binding on all its members. Interesting point, and rules certainly matter. But…

1. The DPJ leadership thinks that it does have a process that produces binding decisions, and its members, including former Prime Minister Yukio, seem to agree. Otherwise, the leadership could not have imposed sanctions and the lower house dissidents would not have accepted them. 2. The problem was not the lack of a formal process to make binding decisions but the perceived need for a parallel process aimed at easing opposition (if sometimes only by allowing the restless rank-and-file to let off steam) that appeared to shift with the frequent changes in the party leadership and their ripple effects throughout the political appointments and party assignments. Note that the presence of a 25-member General Council would have done little to stave off a rebellion led by two powerful party powers. That was the case in 2005, when Shizuka Kamei and Takeo Hiranuma led the charge against Japan Post privatization, and the same in 2012, when Ichiro Ozawa and Yukio Hatoyama voted against the VAT-social safety net bills.

Frankly, I feel a little sorry for the DPJ rank-and-file. They’ve endured one shadow shogun and three prime ministers, most of them saddled with obvious, massive flaws, laboring under a manifesto filled with improbably promises. Then 3.11 happened. The formal rules and procedures were the least of the problem.

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