Naoto Kan and Yoshihiko Noda have been trying to take the DPJ back to its pre-Ichiro Ozawa, metropolitan middle-class roots with their reemphasis on fiscal responsibility, competition and free trade. In the 2010 DPJ leadership election, Kan received votes from 206 Diet members when he turned back a challenge from a pre-indictment Ozawa. In the 2011 leadership election, 215 Diet members supported Noda in the second-round runoff against Ozawa surrogate Banri Kaieda. In the 2012 leadership election, Noda defended his title (and the prime minister’s office) with a first-round knockout of his three challengers, one strongly influenced by agricultural interests, another representing the old-Socialist labor wing, and the other with his name associated with Ozawa, Your Party, Toru Hashimoto through more-or-less visible attempts at self-promotion. His Diet supporters? Somewhere between 210 and 214.** This is pretty consistent.
* This does not mean that he is more faithless than your typical DPJ Diet member. Although a Matsushita Seikei-juku graduate and a policy wonk, he comes from the Hata-Ozawa side of the 1998 merger and does not have a specific group affiliation to fall back on.
** The nine officially nominated candidates for the next election were given one vote each, while the 334 Diet members had, as usual, two votes each. Noda received a combined 429 votes from these notables, which gives us a 210-9 ~214-1 split.
So, an urban agenda is supported by a solid majority in the DPJ, especially with Ozawa’s associates gone, but is being checked by minority interests who cannot move their own agendas but are holding the majority’s hostage by threatening to pull up stakes and leave. The resulting standoff will keep the DPJ more or less intact for the time being but will have no upside for the DPJ going into the lower house election. Noda takes his time in laying the groundwork for major policy decisions and has not been impressive when it comes to managing the politics around them, but he has taken a stand on the consumption tax hike and the nuclear power plant restarts, as well as the Osprey deployment to Okinawa. I’d say that it is very likely that he will push Japan into the TPP negotiations in the coming months if he survives the lower house election, or even before if the opposition fails to force a snap election within the year.