The retouching of the Democratic Party of Japan leadership, decided Monday by Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda, shows that he is more interested in avoiding friction within the party than in solving difficult problems the nation is facing.
Mr. Noda retained Mr. Azuma Koshiishi as secretary general, picked nuclear minister Goshi Hosono as policy chief and Finance Minister Jun Azumi as acting secretary general, and upgraded Mr. Kazunori Yamanoi, Diet affairs vice chief, to Diet affairs chief.
The intention behind Mr. Noda’s decision to retain Mr. Koshiishi as the DPJ’s No. 2 official is clear. Mr. Koshiishi is negative toward the promise Mr. Noda made to the Liberal Democratic Party and Komeito that he will dissolve the Lower House “in the near future.” Many DPJ Lower House members fear that an election at an early date will be disadvantageous for them, given the current low popularity of the DPJ.
Some DPJ Diet members may be inclined to leave the party to join a party more popular than the DPJ. By retaining Mr. Koshiishi, Mr. Noda sent a message that he will not dissolve the Lower House at an early date. Thus he wants to prevent departure of DPJ Diet members from his party.
In the August 2009 Lower House election, the DPJ won 308 seats. Its present strength in the chamber is 247 seats. If nine more DPJ Lower House members leave the party, it would lose the majority.
Given the term of current Lower House members, a Lower House election must be held within a year. An Upper House election will also be held in the summer of 2013.
A weak point of Mr. Koshiishi is that as an Upper House member, he is not familiar with situations in Lower House electoral districts. Although Mr. Azumi will help him, Mr. Koshiishi must play a leading role in working out a strategy to win in a coming Lower House election and in managing the election campaign.
Looking at the retention of Mr. Koshiishi as DPJ secretary general, the LDP and Komeito will judge that Mr. Noda is going to break the promise to dissolve the Lower House “in the near future” and may feel betrayed.
There is the possibility that the opposition forces will not take part in deliberations in the Upper House where they had passed a censure motion against Mr. Noda during the last Diet session.
Mr. Noda faces the difficult short-term task of enacting a bill to issue bonds for the fiscal 2012 budget, rectifying the disparity in the vote of a value in a Lower House election and compiling a fiscal 2012 supplementary budget to help the economy. More importantly, he must fulfill a task of presenting a clear, basic policy orientation around which DPJ Diet members can unite.