Post-Noda win speculative speculation and Japan’s first Cypriniforme Prime Minister

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.



11 thoughts on “Post-Noda win speculative speculation and Japan’s first Cypriniforme Prime Minister

  1. I did some rough arithmetic just by the vote tallies of the 2 rounds (without much knowledge of how many MPs belong to what group).

    It seems your theory of Ozawa shifting 30 of his votes to boost Noda just to oust Maehara in the 1st round may have been correct.

    From the second round votes, assuming the extra 34 votes Kaieda got rallied behind their Dark Lord’s orders after successfully repelling Maehara.

    Kaieda: 143 1st round votes + 34 “extra votes” = 177
    Noda: (102 1st round votes – 34 “extra votes”) + 74 Maehara votes + 52 Kano votes + 24 Mabuchi votes = 218 – which is just 3 more than the 215 Noda eventually got.

      • Something to do with my local ISP. I’ve had this problem with other WordPress blogs as well, especially those using Akismet filters, they always mistake my posts as spam.

        I had to resort to using a proxy in order to post properly.

        Fortunately I will be relocating to Tokyo by next month, so this shouldn’t be too much of a problem for long.

  2. BTW, I’d like to ask, how many of the approx. 170 Ozawa (~130) and Hatoyama’s (~40) men are in the Lower House and how many are in the Upper House?

    In the event that Ozawa finally decides to bolt and bring his stooges along with him, would Noda still have enough of the rump DPJ to form a Grand Coalition with the LDP + Komeito?

    Japanese politics is too dysfunctional with wackos like Ozawa. The old DPJ (Kan, Okada et al) made a deal with the Devil by accepting him into their ranks. The sooner the DPJ is rid of this cancerous influence the better, even if it means going back into opposition for a while and regrouping themselves while allowing the LDP to self-destruct in government as they always do. That’s the only way I could see Maehara ever coming back stronger.

    It’ll probably be another 5-10 years before the political spectrum in this country gets realigned properly.

    • The idea of the DPJ leaving the mess to the LDP is one that has occasionally crossed my mind but I guess either they double down and stick in for the long haul, or call an election soon. That said, there may not be any pressing reason, even if Ozawa does bolt. Even if can round up 100 people for a vote, it is unlikely that he could convince the same group of people to leave. I would be surprised if it was even as high as 50-60 that are THAT loyal too him. Those that would stay with him I think are not the first termers etc so they are probably more evenly spread across the Lower and Upper Houses. If Noda does a somewhat better job than Kan (a low bar) then I think the party could convince enough to stay inside the party to avoid losing the majority in the lower house. As long as they have that then they can fend off calls for an immediate election and push back on the opposition for policy-level cooperation. And frankly, Ozawa and maybe Hatoyama leaving in a big huff might well improve the election prospects of any of those still left over after in the party, if they wanted to go to the electorate immediately. Possibly enough to preclude the LDP-Komeito from getting an outright majority.

  3. Pingback: Japan’s Foreign Policy Under Noda: A Preliminary Survey | Foreign Policy Blogs

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