One thing many Japan analysts have been unclear on up until now is the command that Ozawa has not so much over the DPJ (many believe it is weakening) but over the mass of younger, supposedly more reform minded candidates that he nurtured into the Lower House in last year’s election. This is an important variable as many suspected some of the hesitancy of the DPJ to remove Ozawa, and Hatoyama also, is due to the potential damage Ozawa could do to the ruling coalition if he was, in a showdown with someone like Maehara Seiji, throw his toys and take people out of the party. Personally, I am not sure how likely he would be to do this even if he wielded such power. Many cited his history of jumping parties (and undermining the 93 coalition in particular) as a good reason for believing that he might do such a thing again. However, unlike 1993 he has much more to lose.
Nevertheless, the Japanese media has started asking the question as to whether these “Ozawa Children” are likely to be in lockstep with Ozawa. Logically one thinks that while they may be grateful to Ozawa, this is not the same as loyalty. And rational self-interest would suggest they would think long and hard – they could effectively be throwing away 3 more years in power, which for shinjin is surely close to fatal for reelection. Interestingly, one of them is now stating that Ozawa and Hatoyama should stand down saying (jp) that the top two have not acted in accordance with the values that the public voted for when they voted for seiken kotai last year.
Ozawa’s ‘children’ and Koizumi’s ‘children’ of 2005 are both similar in that they wanted a push for reform. Overall I do believe they differ somewhat in terms of the extent that they believe(d) fiscal reform was necessary, but the key thing in terms of discussing the loyalty of each is that Koizumi’s methods/politics more or less conformed with the type of policies he was pursuing (sleek, not overly dramatic, squeaky clean – but strong when needed). The thing that has confounded many people in regards to Ozawa is that while he is (supposed to be) pursuing some very interesting reforms, he is (according to the prevailing meme) very fond of secrecy, power politics, and well, old school dealings of all sorts. Worse, he is seen to be poisoning the political atmosphere with his politics which is getting in the way of the implementation of policy. Ozawa, who has not always necessarily been so keen to be front and centre, probably accepts that while he is in politics his biography is not likely to be written in glowing terms, probably believing any influence he has had will be reflected upon more objectively in hindsight. But whether a “great man” biography gets written at all will depend on whether there is some sort of stability after the 2010 elections. Personally, even if the DPJ has to form another coalition (hopefully with more reliable, or at least more thoughtful partners) or operates as a minority government (in the upper house) then I don’t think this is fatal. Many parliamentary systems get by with minority governments, or at least have had to consider the idea lately. Perhaps the “top two” would have to go in this case, but it would still be a hell of a legacy. Ozawa feebly limping out in a fit of rage without loyalists in tow would probably undermine his legacy. And if he managed to ruffle up the 68 or so Lower House MPs to really throw the cat amongst the pidgeons, then even more so. I don’t think his ego is that fragile, and he is certainly smart enough to appreciate this. But, to be sure, I have never met the man.
My own overall views on Ozawa are pretty complex, like the man himself. But if this latest broadside is reflective of what is to come, then perhaps the writing really is on the wall. The protagonist, Yokokume Katsuhito, was one of those who accompanied Ozawa to China last year and had earlier this year defended Ozawa by saying he had explained himself sufficiently. I assume he did not take the decision to criticize lightly. There has been rumours of both Ozawa and Hatoyama stepping down at the end of May. If true, this could be a stroke of brilliance in some way if purposeful. Ozawa always knew that the party would not keep its sky high support levels for long (although probably did not expect things to go this badly). If he managed to keep as much control over proceedings as he could (ie through the selection of candidates for HoC after having handpicked many of 2009’s) but removed himself at the crucial junction then he may still be able to leave the DPJ to rule with some reasonable level of support ie tactically useful levels of support, and in terms of reasonable expectations. We should probably remember that the DPJ still got elected with a “scandalized” Ozawa in a position of power last year – things have changed, but completely removing himself from any formal position along with Hatoyama might lead to a bump with the opposition in disarray. Then he may well be able to bow out er, well not gracefully, but certainly with things in “the right hands” from his point of view.
In other news, Koizumi younger has taken (jp) to comparing the current weather, to his reading of the mood of the Diet. Apparently a few days ago it was raining…now it is a bonafide tempest! Just because you wanted to know.