Much has already been said about the remarkable turn-around in yesterday’s events where, within the space of a few hours, the DPJ went from death’s door to the LDP and the opposition being the ones in for some tough times in terms of party unity. It seems likely that the LDP senior party leadership will be roundly criticized, with Tanigaki, Oshima, and Ishihara Nobuteru likely to be in the firing line.1
Not only was the LDP embarrassed by the outcome of yesterday’s events, but it could well be one of the final few nails in the coffin of the old guard of the LDP. For the first time since the 2009 election it was starting to look as if the LDP was starting to pick up votes due to DPJ blunders. Now having completely misread public sentiment (which while disapproving of Kan was against such a cynical political exercise at this point in time), and having Tanigaki on record not ruling out a grand coalition with Ozawa (who is still considerably more unpopular than Kan), then it may well have snuffed out continuing such a comeback. While the opposition will accuse the DPJ of playing politics with peoples’ lives and engaging in nothing more cynical political and party shenanigans (and they may well be right), it is they who come out looking like they have politicized the recovery for self-interested gain.
Not only have they lost the main weapon for removing Kan, (a no-confidence motion can only be submitted once during a parliamentary session according to parliamentary custom) they are now in a position where they will likely be compelled to cooperate with some of the government’s policy programme. Now that Kan has indicated that he will likely step down around December and/or January, should the recovery programme proceed, the opposition now have little choice but to work with the DPJ if they want to see the back of Kan. A nice little outcome for such a curious promise – a promise, to be sure, so vague it could only convince the likes of Hatoyama Yukio. The 22 or so LDP members (which is one-fifth of the current LDP’s strength) who participated in the “minji-ren” meeting last week, will have their position within the party strengthened – or ignored at the party’s peril. This group wished to see more focus being placed on cross-party approaches to the recovery effort, as well as accelerate generational change in politics (and thus escape the personal politicking they saw being pursued by the LDP senior leadership, the Kan group, and the Ozawa group)- something that Kan himself alluded to when indicating he would step down at some point. Kono Taro was one of the main LDP sponsors of this grouping.
At least, this is what one would think the logical outcome of all of this would be. Already there is talk about the LDP submitting a censure motion in the Upper House, although as this Yomiuri article points out, some might well be tiring of this kind of approach. The Reconstruction Design Council will present its findings this month and Kan is well positioned to take ownership of them. Of course what happens from here is anyone’s guess. But whether by design or not, it seems that Kan’s strategic stubbornness has paid off for him. And this war of attrition seems to be applying ever more pressure to the back of the old establishment.
1 Ishihara not helping himself by equating Kan to Hitler in the lead-up speeches. Yes, they are just that simply out of touch with the public. Kan has certainly not been a star and has certainly been frustrating. But the opposition had been framing the no-confidence motion as the choice between Hitler and FDR…and no-one, including the public, was going to be fooled by this.