Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Hatoyama Backing into the Picture in the DPJ Succession

Not much more to say, but I thought a brief follow-up was warranted since it looks like Yukio Hatoyama may be throwing his hat in the ring after all.

The odds for Yukio Hatoyama standing for the election to succeed Ichiro Ozawa as DPJ leader are improving with every moment that he doesn’t say no. So it may be useful to look at an interesting chart on the second page of today’s morning Yomiuri. The chart gives the group-by-group numbers for the DPJ’s 221 MPs as well as the relationship between the groups. With the caveat that some MPs belong to more than one group, here’s what it says:

A. (Ichiro) Ozawa Group 50
B. (Yukio) Hatoyama Group 30
C. (Naoto) Kan Group 30
D. (Seiji) Maehara Group 30
E. Ex-Socialists 20
F. Ex-Democratic Socialists 20
G. Yoshihiko Noda Group 20
H. Independents (Okada et al) 25

They add up to 225, not many more than the 221 MPs that the DPJ actually has, and they are approximate figures. So let’s assume that they do provide an accurate picture of the relative strengths of the respective groups.

Next, the relationships:

A ♥ B&E.
B ♥ F.
A definitely does not ♥D&G.
A lukewarm C.

Now Hatoyama made a good show of supporting Ozawa. So if Ozawa was the kind of person who put a lot of stock in such personal service, he could conceivably put 50+20 votes to Hatoyama’s disposal. Hatoyama in turn would bring 30+20 votes on his own. That’s 120 votes, more than an outright majority of the DPJ MPs. But will Ozawa oblige? All he cares about is winning, and Hatoyama’s late-life association with Ozawa is a definite negative.

Neither Hatoyama with his humorless, beady-eyed carping nor Okada with his Clark-Kent looks and demeanor to match comes across as the second coming of Barack Obama. That being said, they’re definitely an upgrade on the ghostly presence of their predecessor-to-be as far as electoral campaigning is concerned, and the other wannabies (Maehara and Noda) appear to be unacceptable to the pro-Ozawa crowd. So it comes down after all to a showdown between Hatoyama and Okada, assuming Hatoyama actually stands.

No matter. The important thing, to repeat, is that the DPJ is set for a Lower House victory with a leader (whichever) who will be a far more palatable partner for a post-election LDP breakaway group that would assure an Upper House majority without bringing one or more of the mini-parties on board. This is more important than the identity of the eventual winner. And we only have to wait until Saturday at most to know.

I’ve been hitting the sauce early today after a hard day’s work, and it’s time to get to work on dinner. I promise to get back to your comments tomorrow.


Unknown said...

The big assumption that can no longer be made for the LDP and perhaps could never be made for the DPJ is that group members will vote as they're told and not in their own interests.

In the legislature that assumption still may have some validity. But it has not been a valid assumption in electoral issues for over a decade. On Saturday DPJ Diet members won't vote on the basis of personal ties or personal preferences, they will vote on the basis of the approaching election. That's why Okada wins.

Jun Okumura said...

Ross: On Saturday DPJ Diet members won't vote on the basis of personal ties or personal preferences, they will vote on the basis of the approaching election. On Saturday DPJ Diet members won't vote on the basis of personal ties or personal preferences, they will vote on the basis of the approaching election.

Hard to argue with that argument. Yes, my money is on Okada still. Just worried that my personal feelings may be clouding my judgment.

LB said...

Okada may end up winning, but the result may be a collective yawn. We've been there and seen that. Policy wonk he may be, but policy wonks generally do not make good leaders - they focus on details and lack the "vision thing". Japan right now does not need a Prime Minister Carter.

Anonymous said...

Jun -

Can you provide a cogent explanation to why Nikai Toshihiro has been virtually ignored by the press while they have focused on Ozawa? I am having a hard time not getting conspiratorial about this whole mess, and I don't want to. It just seems such terribly bad luck that the DPJ are in such a mess right before such a crucial election. I was also annoyed with the complicity of the MSM in the 2005 election, when they bought the LDP line hook line and sinker that it was an election of Koiuzumi vs. the rest of the LDP, rather than Koizumi AND the rest of his party against the opposition.


Derek said...

I think it will be incredibly detrimental to the DPJ's attempts to differentiate itself from the LDP if they elect Hatoyama -- an heir to old establishment power and money -- as their leader.

Jun Okumura said...

LB: Obama is proof that vision and wonkistry are not necessarily mutually exclusive. Okada, I hate to say, is no Obama when it comes to inspiring the public, but none of the other candidates are particularly awe-inspiring either. Besides, he won’t try to manage the mahjong tables at the Prime Minister’s Kantei either, and he’ll avoid getting into altercations with rabid bunnies. That should count.

In any case, the Japanese public is ready to run him (or anyone else within reasonable limits that the DPJ puts forth for that matter) up the flagpole. Let’s hope it works.

Anonymous: I’ve been wondering why myself. The main reason is that the Public Prosecutors Office has stopped giving out any leaks. On the outside, the Nishimatsu crowd was talking relatively freely, but now that the suspects have been arrested and charged, I guess that avenue has understandably shut down. There was a very brief memo in yesterday’s Yomiuri to the effect that the authorities answered that the investigation was still ongoing, so it hasn’t gone into the dead-case files.

Of course this all begs the question: Why no more leaks? And why is it taking so long? Will we eventually get an explanation? Stay tuned. That’s all I can do myself at this point.

Derek: I think you’re right. Besides, fairly or unfairly, he’s too closely associated with Ozawa. That being said, I do have some sympathy for Hatoyama regarding your point. He’s not your typical heirloom turkey. He definitely had the kaban (enough money to bankroll DPJ1.0) and kanban (name recognition), but he didn’t inherit a jiban (electoral machine plus committed voters). He successfully stood for election in faraway Hokkaido. He’s done much better than younger brother Kunio, who seems to have mostly wasted his many political advantages over his less-favored older brother—good looks (I’m old enough to remember when he didn’t look like Jabba the Hutt), glamorous wife, and a Lower House seat in Tokyo won at the tender age of 27 under the tutelage of the master Kakuei Tanaka. I’ve never particularly liked Hatoyama, but he’s definitely made his own way through political life. And it’s not as if Okada isn’t loaded himself.

And while we’re on the subject of Hatoyama, I expect the Ozawa crowd to be pretty solid for him. Add that to Hatoyama’s folks and he would have 80 or so in the bag. So it wouldn’t be a landslide for Okada. Of course if he does post a runaway victory, that bodes well for the DPJ in the general election. We’ll see.