Saturday, November 17, 2012

Ishihara Has Seen the Future and Its Name Is Hashimoto, But What of It?

Or so he thinks. Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto’s Japan Restoration Party (JRP) is “absorbing” now former Tokyo Governor Shintaro Ishihara’s Party of the Sun (PTS) today. PTS had announced a merger with Nagoya Mayor Takashi Kawamura’s Genzei Nippon two days ago (15th), but that appears to have been put on ice at Hashimoto’s insistence. This is probably a temporary hitch; Hashimoto has always been clear that he would not collaborate for collaboration’s sake. Ishihara has reportedly accepted the PTS policy platform, and Kawamura will have to do likewise before Hashimoto gives his consent. Kawamura is a politics-first guy and the flotsam and jetsam that he’s gathered around him would like nothing better than to duck under the big tent; I’m pretty confident that he’ll come around in time to coordinate candidates for the House of Representatives election on December 16. Which is the point of it all, isn’t it?

That leaves Your Party out in the rain. It must be galling to Yoshimi Watanabe and his YP cohorts. Hashimoto lifted their small-government, pro-market agenda, Koizumi-alumni advisors and all and is going national, even as the original vehicle treads water. They’ve been around only three years, so it’s not as if there’s a lot of history behind it, but can they lay their egos to rest and subordinate themselves to a nationwide coalition? I’ll believe it when I see it.

If they all come together, though, the product will be a pretty formidable spectacle, with the ability to field candidates nationwide. If they can get through the weeks leading up to election day without its many parts speaking out every which way and squabbling amongst themselves, they will certainly be a formidable force at the polls. There’ll be a lot of talk about the policy differences between them, but the DPJ was cobbled together out of even more disparate parts, and the LDP is divided over, say, nuclear power and the TPP when you look under the covers.

I don’t think that the Third Force movements, largely or wholly united under the JRP banner, will cooperate with a post-election LDP-Komeito or (significantly less likely) DPJ-PNP regime. They’ll support any efforts that work in favor of their policy agenda and oppose anything that doesn’t. There’s no need to compromise; indeed compromise is dangerous when you’re trying to present an alternative to the status quo and not just an improvement.

This means that the two major coalitions will have to work with each other, because another bout of gridlock is the last thing that they can afford. They have to look good doing it, too, because the public will have another suitor at its doorsteps. That’s not easy to do when you’re the opposition, because whatever makes you look good is likely to make the incumbent regime good too.


Jan Moren said...

So... Now we get three coalitions, all with grabbing and holding power as the only unifying policy goal.

Can't say I find it to be an improvement.

Jun Okumura said...

Yes, sort of.

No, I agree. And I do not think that fiscal and regulatory devolution, which is probably the single most significant policy position shared by the Third Force movements, including Ozawa's folks, and to which the two major coalitions also subscribe, will perforce be an upgrade in local governance. (I'm not saying that it will be necessarily worse either.) That's why I'm mostly posting around the mechanics of the political game.