Ozawa Leaves the DPJ: A Minor Victory for Noda

Or at least a more favourable development for Noda’s quest to extend his already somewhat unlikely administration’s longevity.

There were three numbers of primary importance that would have concerned Noda in regards to Ozawa’s expected resignation along with his most loyal members.

55

The number of House of Representatives members that would need to leave to reduce the DPJ-PNP coalition to a minority government. The implications of this would be that this coalition would not be able to defeat a no-confidence motion without support from outside parties, or would be able to pass the budget.

42

The number of House of Representatives members that would need to leave to give the new Ozawa party the right to put forward a no-confidence motion. The assumption here is that the 9 members of the Kizuna party of Ozawa-ites who had already left the party would join the new party.

So how many did House of Representatives members Ozawa manage to convince to leave the party?

40 (日)

This will enable Noda to breathe a little more easily. Not only can the Ozawa party not bring down the government but they cannot submit a no-confidence motion. The LDP could still of course bring such a motion, but its leaders will be mindful of  the passage of the LDP-DPJ-Komeito negotiated consumption tax/social security bills. The public may not appreciate the LDP both cooperating with and seeking to bring down the government at the same time, despite that being exactly what they have been trying to do, quietly. It would have been so much better if disgruntled members of the ruling party were the ones to bring such a motion. The Ozawa party will likely collect the necessary members at some point in the near future to enable it to submit such a motion, but it takes away the immediate risk.

19

The other number, which they were unlikely to get in any case, relates to the House of Councillors. This would have reduced the DPJ to being the second largest party in the House of Councillors, and led to the loss of the associated procedural privileges and control of the agenda. Ozawa managed to convince 12 House of Councillor members to leave.

There is however one other interesting number – 6 – that may be more consequential. The DPJ-PNP and Komeito will not be able to pass legislation on their own. This most likely will have consequences for the DPJ’s planned electoral reform mentioned previously, which is part of an attempt to drive the LDP and Komeito apart in terms of electoral cooperation. Furthermore, if a lower house election was to be held before July 2013 when half of the current House of Councillors members’ terms are up, then the DPJ and the Komeito, if they had such an option based on the results of such an election, would not have control of both houses of the Diet.  Any such government could potentially spend time spinning its wheels until the July 2013 upper house elections.

The other main reason for Noda to be not completely unhappy with this outcome is that he does not have to dirty his hands publicly doing what he may have been pressured into doing anyway – ‘dealing’ with ‘Ozawa’ once and for all. There was internal and external pressure for Noda to cast off Ozawa, and while Noda was none too happy himself with Ozawa’s defiance, a combative threat of expulsion for Ozawa specifically or long-term suspension of all those who went against the party could have led to a much larger exodus of party members that he would have wanted (as per the numbers above). A bitter and protracted “fight” over the appropriate level of punishment could have broken out, especially given the quite reasonable criticism that Noda administration had betrayed the DPJ’s original manifesto, and lost its electoral mandate in pushing forward with the consumption tax rise.

Now Noda can be strategically lenient towards those in his party who did vote no or abstain on the consumption tax bill without necessarily being seen to be taking a “weak” stance on party unity and discipline. He can also go to the LDP with a request to quieten down on DPJ internal issues now that Ozawa is “gone,” as the LDP has been demanding for some time. They will still make some noise – as they were an hour after the announcement (日) –  about needing to go to the public to “ask for the citizen’s trust,” but it is likely to be less enduring than it would have otherwise been given the exit of Ozawa. This removes one more issue for the opposition to use in regards to maneuvering around legislation and the timing of the next lower house election. This by no means means that Noda is safe until the September end of the parliamentary session, but it may give him some space to implement a political strategy for further extending the life of his cabinet.

2 thoughts on “Ozawa Leaves the DPJ: A Minor Victory for Noda

  1. Goodbye and good riddance to bad rubbish, at least from the DPJ.

    I reckon the DPJ would still lose seats in the next election due to the sales tax backlash, but with its biggest liability removed, hopefully it could now contain the damage and hold its own against any challenge from a Hashimoto-like populist party.

    (Does anybody actually expect the geriatric and equally intransigent LDP to make significant gains at the DPJ’s expense?)

    If done correctly, the DPJ could even force a hung parliament, forcing the likes of Hashimoto to accept a deal to join a coalition in order to have their agendas co-opted, thus bringing Hashimoto under control while riding on the coattails of his popularity (at the expense of the LDP of course). At the same time, Noda and/or his successors might even use these losses as an excuse to purge the remnant intransigent Ozawa-ists once and for all.

    In the meantime, Noda must endure another year of parliamentary limbo while wheeling and dealing with the LDP until the double elections next year, I wish him (or any of his successors in case he doesn’t last the year) good luck.

    • I think you may be correct in implying that there may be a chance that the DPJ could “rehabilitate” itself without Ozawa hanging around in terms of public image, if Noda makes it to next year. Normally I would think one year to not be quite enough…but so far Noda has done better than expected, so who knows what could happen if he keeps grinding away.

      if there is an election later this year however I think the DPJ will still be massacred. The main problem is that with both the DPJ and the LDP at such low levels then it is likely that a low turnout will take place unless Hashimoto fronts up himself. Right now the “Hashimoto” movement still looks a bit disjointed and everyone from every where is trying to jump in on it. And Hashimoto’s occasional comments of insanity don’t help much either. Unless there is a clear choice, in the case of low voter turnout the dedicated voters of the Komeito will make a big difference to many of the SMD races in the lower house. They are still most likely to swing behind the LDP, in which case I would say the LDP might get near 180 odd SMD seats alone depending on what the outcome of electoral reform is. Add on the LDP’s and Komeito’s PR seats and an LDP/Komeito coalition would be likely.

      If Noda is able to last until July next year then it may be bad news for the LDP on the other hand. Either the DPJ would have consolidated itself somewhat, enabling it to last that long, and/or there has been enough time for the Hashimoto “dynamic” to form into something mildly coherent. The very fact that Noda would have lasted close to 2 years would be something in itself (it would be the second longest tenure since Hashimoto Ryutaro’s 2.5 year tenure that finished in 1998). Maybe he could argue: “Hey I get it that you hate my party, and you hate the LDP, but I showed strong leadership through an almost impossible situation – imagine what I could do with a new mandate!”

      On another hand (if I had three…need it for Japanese politics these days!), a solid Hashimoto party performance could be the spur to a realignment – ie could attract reformists out of both the LDP and the DPJ post-election, assuming that they survive an election.

      Don’t count Ozawa out though – even if he is able to massage 10-15 or so seats out of the population then this might still be the “casting” vote in any post-election scenario. There are just too many unknown variables at this point to discount this possibility IMO.

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