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 Koike1 very 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.