So what can one lame duck do?

Michael Cucek’s analysis strikes me as spot on in regards to the dynamics of what remains of the Kan Cabinet’s time.

All I have to add is that there are some interesting developments worthy of watching on the other side of the house, which may be enabling for the Kan administration’s short-term agenda.

The first is increased potential for New Kōmeitō-DPJ cooperation. Kōmeitō broke ranks with the LDP recently in regards to the extension of the current diet session, and stated it was in favour of extending the session – not exactly a love bubble for the DPJ but one suspects that the “threat” of a LDP-DPJ grand coalition might have reminded the Kōmeitō that it has it’s own political interests to look out for, rather than obsessing about what Kan and co. may or may not be doing at a given time. Kōmeitō executives, along with those from Your Party and Shinto Kaikaku, have openly criticized the idea of such a coalition and suggested that parliament is the appropriate place for policy making. I’m sure the DPJ was pleased to hear of this novel idea. These groups have also been much more restrained in terms of discussions around immediately submitting a non-binding Upper House censure motion, and also more restrained around the, frankly ludicrous, idea of breaking precedent and  submitting a second no-confidence motion, something that the LDP has not yet ruled out.

Second, as suggested in the previous post, there have been rumblings within the LDP. These rumblings would probably have developed into something more ominous had it not been for Hatoyama’s very public expression of naivety in regards to the issue of when PM Kan was going to step down, as it distracted attention from the LDP’s embarrassment. Nevertheless, it seems that some of the younger and more reform-orientated members of the LDP have been making themselves heard. The likes of Ishiba and Koikevery publicly nixed the grand coalition idea some elder party members were salivating over (the so called “大臣病患者”).2

LDP members of the minji-ren, most prominently Kōno Tarō, have been kicking around ideas of what the LDP’s energy policy should be and party reform in general. While LDP Secretary-General Ishihara Nobuteru 3 was busy making friends by insulting anyone who ever had any concerns over nuclear safety, Kōno Tarō(jp) has been very publicly demanding a reorientation in the LDP’s nuclear energy friendly position, and has set up an internal group to look at this issue.4 This has dovetailed with PM Kan’s position that his work will not be done until all of the relevant bond and budget bills are passed and also, as recently ventured, comprehensive feed-in-tariff legislation is  passed. On the 14th Kan invited Kōno to the Kantei to discuss  (jp) cooperation in regards to pushing forward this legislation. To be sure Kōno Tarō is no fan of Kan, but his pragmatism, and increasing confidence within the party might lend itself to Kan being able to push this legislation further than it might have gone. It seems that not only Kan and Son Masayoshi are bullish on the idea – Mitsubishi is also pushing further forward on an alliance it has with Kumamoto Prefecture to build Japan’s first “mega-solar power station” (en) in anticipation of a more renewable energy friendly environment.

1 Although who knows if she has any reformist credentials left these days…but Koizumi senior and junior got into the game on this one by cautioning gainst a coalition, which surely helped.

2 大臣病患者 – The term was originally coined for current Minister  for Economic and Fiscal Policy Yosano Kaoru, it could be literally translated as “infirm/sick minister(s)” but since xx病患者 could be translated as “suffer/patient of x disease” then Masuzoe’s recent usage points to the desire or sickness of old politicians wanting to become cabinet ministers, assumedly before they fall victim to fate.

3 Ishihara called recent questioning of Japan’s nuclear policy, “collective hysteria” and “populism”

4 Although the response was not overwhelming – it appeared that many in the party were interested in the idea and attended Kōno’s meeting, but were not willing to “abandon” nuclear power, so to speak- although I doubt anyone is advocating that in the short term, so read into that what you will.

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9 thoughts on “So what can one lame duck do?

  1. ah, the subtle spite in this post…

    We are now hearing rumours of a reshuffling of the Cabinet, maybe even early next week? That sounds like a great idea to do at this stage, you know, to add insult to injury. Party time, new playaz.

    As someone who is involved in what euphorically called green energy, I am slightly annoyed by the love of this administration for solar, which costs many more yen per kilowatt to generate than wind power.

  2. Biggie that is probably a fair criticism. And one overlooked point is that pretty much all turbines exposed to the tsunami withstood it and more despite previous concerns that wind powered infrastructure could be hazardous or brittle in the event of a natural disaster.

    I guess from the government’s point of view the solar angle presented itself and is probably the most accessible technology to promote so they went with it – after all it does leverage off pre-existing industrial strengths and Japan’s emerging strength in nano-technology.

    • I read this blog religiously and ]i find it very enlightening. I would like to lend weight to what Mr Wallace has to say – specifically that the turbines resisted the Tsunami. I attach a link here to a lecture given in April at the United Nations University in Tokyo in which the speaker shows pictures of completely unaffected turbines on the very coast that was swept on March 11 a the tsunami the same height that affected Fukushima.

      Incidentally, it is not _this_ administration that loves solar inordinately to the detriment of other renewables. This bias is already years old. Japan currently does have already an FIT law, introduced by METI one day before the historic LDP-ousting elections in August 2009. Evil tongues will claim that that law, which favors solar and solar alone, was introduced with the spiteful strategy in mind to preempt the spread of FITs to other forms of renewable energy. This is why the current FIT bill is so important – because it would allow other renewables as well to become subject to the favorable tariff rates.

      And, if you want a grossly simplified explanation of why solar and not other forms of renewables, it’s because the Japanese used to be, about a decade ago, the dominant actors on the global stage for solar. Wind? That’s the Danes. I do not know this for a fact, but i am willing to bet a lot that at some point somebody in the bowels of Agency of Natural Resources and Energy went like, “Well, if we have to have the damned tariffs, might as well get those that hurt us least!”

      • Climate Morio – thanks for the comments and positive evaluation! I think your points make a lot of sense. I suspect that the government by promoting solar as an alternative to nuclear power, which is trendy and allows the public to buy-in to the idea through housing installation (in the new housing booklets almost all in places like Yokohama advertise the benefits of solar and the FIT), is opening the door for other renewables as well. I guess the first point is make sure the incentives are right, including a more comprehensive FIT scheme, and lessening the power of the energy monopolies. If companies such as Softbank, Mitsubishi and Toyota are seen to be going into the solar area then this would give more confidence that a move from nuclear dependency and foreign oil is not just pie in the sky, for a public that really does not like inconvenience. That said, whether Kan himself is planning things this way is another question…but if he fights hard enough to get a new FIT and perhaps opens up the energy infrastructure a little more, then even if his 20% by 2020 plan is unrealistic, well, it hardly matters – he would have done something useful.

      • yes, Climate Morio, you are very right. Japan used to be the number one for solar worldwide, before being taken over by Germany and then the US and so on, and this choice for solar stems from a bit of misplaced nationalist pride here.

        That at the same time is one of the reasons why Mitsubishi decided to take their (excellent) 5MW turbine development to the UK instead of keeping it here: the total lack of government support, and domestic market.

        Son-san is very keen on this solar business, but (as someone who has personally been involved in these solar project talks), I know that he also is someone that is not very patient with slow (government) response. They better hurry up if they want to make this happen (they = this and future administrations).

  3. Yokohama is progressive in more ways than one: It is also the biggest of the four sites nationwide where NEDO is implementing real-life R&D experiments on smart-grids.

    This has been going on since 2010. When it inaugurated, TEPCO would not touch it with a ten-foot pole. The company name was added to the list of the project sponsors by an optimistic civil servant, “in the hope of pro-active participation in the future”. I guess Denjiren would rather play with nuclear. It would seem that smart-grids are for girls.

    • Awesome – that made me laugh. Thanks for the info – I didn’t realise things were that well progressed in Yokohama. We just really like the city and were looking at house options (for the distant future to be sure).

  4. Looks like the LDP has it out for Kan. They really want to be back in power it seems and will do anything to get said power. What makes the situation sad is that while Japan is being eat up by radiation and north Japan is suffering big time, Tokyo is busy playing political games.
    They need an energy policy, RIGHT NOW, which involves getting Fukushima under control. Looks like the government is giving TEPCO a free hand to do what ever they want. Can the Japanese government get anything done?

    • There appears to be a select group of people within the LDP that are getting tired of the senior leadership politicking. It seems they are starting to make themselves heard, but who knows. Generally in Japanese politics, (it seems at least to me) the younger parliamentarians are more interested in policy while the older ones tend to be more absorbed with games – because when they became parliamentarians that was really the name of the game – leave the real work to the bureaucrats and we will be self-righteous and outraged about everything else. However, I guess the DPJ got what they asked for – leadership by politicians – except it isn’t very good! I suppose the TEPCO issue is tricky – on the one hand they want to radically reform TEPCO and the regional power monopolies. On the other, they are still relying on them to get the current situation under control. But still at the same time, they don’t want to look to close to them. Seems to me that it isn’t sensible to make any predictions and just see where everything falls at the end of the year. There is a rumour that Kan might call an election in August if he doesn’t get his way on the renewable energy bills with the LDP and his own party. *shrugs shoulders*

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