First the known knowns: 215 votes to Noda, and 177 for Kaieda Banri in a run-off. Sengoku Yoshito, and of course one now Prime Minister Noda Yoshihiko, emerges victorious over the forces of Ozawa and Kaieda Banri. Noda becomes the 62nd person to occupy the role of Prime Minister in Japan (but, the 95th “Prime Minister”……yeah, look here (en) for the explanation).
This was after the first round, where 143 went for Kaieda, 102 for Noda, 74 for Maehara, 52 for Kano, and 24 for Mabuchi.
The rumours are that Kano and Mabuchi threw their votes towards Noda (76 votes in theory). If true, and assuming a pure factional analysis – which my own previous post argued may not be appropriate to be sure – there is something interesting in this. If Kano and Mabuchi did switch their votes as is rumoured then why did Noda not win by a good 30 or 40 votes more? Was the “Noda strategy” in place, with Ozawa giving Noda the decisive votes he needed over Maehara (by a decent amount of votes to be sure) in the first round, and having those Noda votes switch back to Kaieda in round two, albeit in a futile attempt to push Kaieda over the edge? Or in getting the additional 143 votes did Kano not actually deliver the 52 as seemingly promised? It is hard to believe that more than a few Maehara supporters went for Kaieda given Maehara had the most strident anti-Ozawa line in the party.
Unless there is clear confirmation however that the Kano and Mabuchi groups did indeed wholesale go for Noda I think probably the most likely explanation is that Noda had gained the support of the (soon to be former PM) Kan Naoto group and any affiliated with Okada Katsuya, and Kano and Mabuchi then released their candidates to vote for whoever they prefer and Noda managed to pick up about 30 or so from that grouping.
The announcement next month of Cabinet personnel should tell us if a deal was struck between Kano and Noda.
If Noda and Kano did strike a deal then it could well have considerable implications for policy, potentially diplomatic policy. Kano has been the most outspoken critic of the Trans-Pacific Partnership and is seen as being the main influence undermining Kan’s attempt to push through the “third opening of Japan.” Will this, in addition to the Futenma issue, be a source of tension between the US and Japan, even if Noda himself is generally seen to be pro-US? It is worth bearing in mind that Noda even if US-Japan alliance disposed is probably less likely to expend political capital on pushing it forward compared to Maehara Seiji, whether that be in terms of expanding Japan’s ability to dispatch forces overseas, joining the TPP, moving Futenma, or any other variation of the “deepening” of US-Japan relations that has been discussed in the Western and Japanese media of late.
Noda also has his own diplomatic baggage. He recently confirmed that he doesn’t think the Class A war criminals were all that criminal, and is seen to be one of the leading figures in the DPJ most likely to visit the Yasukuni Shrine. The Chinese it would seem were clearly hoping (en) for an Kaieda victory and held little optimism that relations would improve under Noda. Then again this is by no means a given – under the Abe Shinzo administration we saw a temporary transformation in Abe that allowed Japan to improve relations with China that had suffered under Koizumi.
As for the domestic situation….well Noda gets some credibility as the first person to win a DPJ election that did not feature one of the “big three” of Kan, Hatoyama or Ozawa. Unless the more paranoid scenario I outlined in the third paragraph was the case, the unity of the Hatoyama (damaged greatly by the no-confidence vote in June) and the Ozawa groups will be challenged even more. “Ozawa” has lost 4 votes in a row going back to the Tarutoko-Kan race in May last year, including the no-confidence vote. Most crucially this vote was Ozawa’s big chance to get hold of the Secretary-General’s role, even if by proxy, and dispense favours to those within the party loyal to him. The 2012 regular DPJ election is not very favourable to Ozawa and his ilk due to the fact more than just Diet members vote in this election. The prospects for those younger Diet members or those in their first terms will diminish considerably, more than now, if they hem too close to the Ozawa line. From that point of view Noda’s call for party unity (“もうノーサイドにしましょう”) may have more resonance than did Kan’s calls after his previous victories. Noda promised in a sly dig at Kan that he would not call an early election in his address to the DPJ today, which will be music to the ears of the more vulnerable 1st termers. Ozawa’s grip was already weakening and today’s events may be the crucial blow that weakens it beyond repair.
Another positive for Noda is that he was the best speaker of the five up today and comes across as personable. In his speech today he emphasised his poverty-stricken upbringing and humble beginnings. He was the only candidate to get laughs. Noda is known to be a good orator and a difficult character in parliamentary debates. He may be the most forceful speaker in the PM’s role since Koizumi, since none of Abe, Fukuda, Aso, Hatoyama or Kan appeared particularly confident and sure of themselves in the role.
Another thing to look for is a focus on what should have been the focus of the DPJ from day one, instead of grand plans to adjust Japan’s diplomacy or reconstruct its government finances straight from the get go. Maehara in his speech today and in the lead up to the election emphasised on a number of occasions the need to conduct administrative reform as the main feature of the DPJ’s manifesto, rather than the “4k” (en) baramaki policies. If Maehara has any influence over what Noda does in the next year (I won’t make predictions beyond this!), then this might be were we will see some action, including hopefully the elevation of a “National Strategy Bureau” to a ministerial position, which is probably a prerequisite for dealing effectively with all of the other challenging problems that Japan has.
Finally the senior leadership of the LDP made positive noises toward Noda in the run up to the election. I haven’t the effort to speculate again (en) on whether (against the odds) the LDP/Komeito might actually cooperate with the DPJ on policy issues, but this is also something else to watch out for given that Noda made kind noises in response about a “grand coalition.” Noda described himself as a loach (skip to the part on social behaviour) – he is going to have a good opportunity to demonstrate his “loach-like politics” in the next year or so.
Unfortunately there are still plenty of unknown unknowns. And I feel like a donut.