The Diet returned to normal last week, after the opposition forces ended their boycott of the ordinary session over the tripartite ruling bloc’s handling of a controversial bill for reducing the number of Diet seats.
It is scandalous that no politicians have taken responsibility for a debacle that is unprecedented in Japan’s parliamentary history. Lower House Speaker Soichiro Ito and Vice Speaker Kozo Watanabe, who mediated, should be credited with ending the crisis.
The affair serves as a reminder that in Japanese politics, there is no way of telling right from wrong, and that numerical strength is everything.
The LDP is celebrating its “complete victory.” Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi must be relieved that he is likely to face no more bluffs from Ichiro Ozawa, leader of the Liberal Party, the LDP’s junior coalition partner, to leave the ruling alliance over policy differences. In addition, the end of the Diet impasse has given Obuchi more freedom in deciding when to dissolve the Lower House.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Mikio Aoki and LDP Diet Affairs Committee Chairman Makoto Koga must be pleased that the absence of former Chief Cabinet Secretary Hiromu Nonaka, who opposes authoritarian politics, in the LDP political strategists’ team gave them total freedom in negotiations with the opposition forces. Nonaka, now LDP deputy secretary general, was busy overseeing the campaign for the mayoral election in Kyoto, his home district. LDP Secretary General Yoshiro Mori reportedly believes that the end of the Diet crisis moved him a step closer to the LDP presidency, now held by Obuchi.
Many pundits believe that Ozawa’s favorite tactic of threatening to bolt the governing coalition over policy differences will no longer work. However, Ozawa must be proud of the political influence his group showed in the debacle. Ozawa is reportedly intent on creating a new political group by merging his party with LDP conservatives.
New Komeito, the other coalition partner, probably would like to obtain LDP cooperation in the coming general election in return for its strong support of a joint candidate run by the ruling bloc and the opposition Democratic Party of Japan in the Feb. 6 Osaka gubernatorial election.
The DPJ clearly was disappointed by the way the crisis ended. DPJ chief Yukio Hatoyama played a leading role in organizing the coordinated boycott of the Diet by the DPJ, the Japan Communist Party and the Social Democratic Party.
As conditions for normalizing the Diet, Hatoyama demanded the ruling bloc’s apology for the confusion and a dissolution of the Lower House for a snap election. Neither demand was accepted, however. After the end of the crisis, Obuchi appears to have more leeway in deciding when to dissolve the Lower House.
Perhaps Hatoyama should have organized a sit-in in front of the Diet building to protest against the ruling bloc’s legislative tactics. Three or four days after launching the boycott, Hatoyama said, like a naive student, that lawmakers in principle should attend Diet sessions.
Hatoyama lacks the shrewdness needed to deal with cunning politicians. Although Hatoyama’s party benefits little from the single-seat constituency system, Hatoyama said he favored single-seat electoral districts. He also said the Constitution should be revised to include a clause allowing Japan to have armed forces but prohibiting Japanese forces from participating in aggression overseas. These statements exposed his naivete.
The DPJ is also in disarray. The party includes members of the non-LDP Cabinet of former Prime Minister Morihoro Hosokawa and members of the defunct conservative opposition party Shinshinto. They all have strong ambitions to join the ruling forces.
Among other DPJ lawmakers, former members of the defunct Democratic Socialist Party, who are anti-JCP, hardly differ from LP leader Ozawa in their political stance.
It was regrettable for the DPJ and other opposition parties that Japanese media failed to play up the news on the Diet debacle resulting from the ruling bloc’s total disregard of Diet rules and customs. Only the Nihon Keizai Shimbun newspaper, which is generally conservative, published articles critical of the ruling coalition in connection with the confusion.
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