Sunday, April 06, 2008

Ducks Lining Up for Prime Minister: What Next?

The youthful Ichita Yamamoto (LDP, Gunma) is one of the more thoughtful and entertaining members of the House of Councilors. He plays in his own rock band and posts regularly on his own blog. It’s pretty informative, too. For example where else could you learn that all the LDP factions hold meetings every Thursday (no doubt to allow their members to make the trek back to their constituencies for the long weekend)? That’s useful in maintaining unity within the factions, since their ability to raise money for their members and find them Cabinet appointments has been greatly diminished.

Mr. Yamamoto also informs us that the Tsushima faction (69 Diet members; 47 Representatives, 22 Councilors), the Kōchikai (Koga-Tanigaki faction) (61; HR 50, HC 11), the Yamazaki faction (41; HR 38, HC 3), the Ibuki faction (28; HR 22, HC 6), and the Nikai faction (16; HR 14, HC 2) each passed a resolution to reinstate the gasoline tax surcharge with the House of Representatives supermajority override*. Support from the Machimura faction (86; HR 60, HC 26) can be taken for granted, and the Asō (18; HR 15, HC 3) and Kōmura (15; HR 14, HC 1) factions should fall in line as well. That’s 260 members in the all-important House of Representatives, leaving the 44 independents, including House of Representatives Chairman Yōhei Kōno, free to defy party discipline to go their own ways. The New Kōmeitō are more disciplined than the LDP. So, unless there are surprise defections from the faction ranks, the DPJ needs to tear off 16 out of 44 LDP independents and keep all the opposition and other unaligned Representatives on-side in order to stop the surcharge from being reinstated.

Given the open defiance from some of its own Representatives such as Yasuhiro Ōe and the limp slap-on-the-wrist one-month suspension of a Councilor who voted for the LDP candidate for BOJ Governor, it’s unlikely that maintaining the HC veto is the DPJ game plan. Instead, it probably wants to force the coalition to exercise the override and hope that the unpopular measure will damage the LDP more than all the politicking is hurting the DPJ.

* Here and here.

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