A step forward?

It seems that incumbent LDP Diet Strategy Committee Chairman Nikai Toshihiro is being considered as Shiozaki Yasuhisa’s replacement as chief cabinet secretary. Nikai, a onetime member of the Takeshita faction (like Ozawa) who left the LDP to join former Prime Minister Hosokawa’s Japan Renewal Party in 1993 and served as a vice-minister in Hosokawa’s cabinet, is an experienced politician who might be able to manage the government’s agenda with the Upper House in the hands of the opposition. (He was also tapped by Koizumi to head the committee responsible for postal privatization following the September 2005 postal reform election.)

The challenge facing the next chief cabinet secretary and the Abe cabinet as a whole is, of course, the drafting of compromise legislation that forces the DPJ to choose between playing a constructive policy role and opposing the government in a manner that will force the government to rule solely on the back of its super-majority and prompt public disapproval. Nikai, Mainichi suggests, has a “pipeline” to Ozawa from their time together in the ragtag coalition that governed from 1993-1994, which might be used to undercut the DPJ’s position.

I remain convinced, of course, that Prime Minister Abe, lacking the confidence of people and party, is doomed sooner or later, but it’s not difficult to imagine that the combination of a new prime minister and an adroit Diet manager like Nikai could revive the LDP’s fortunes enough to take the wind out of Ozawa’s sails and prompt doubts to return about the DPJ’s viability.

But none of that will be possible without a new prime minister. Every step Mr. Abe takes seems to be the wrong one, the latest being this belated announcement — noted by MTC — of the postponement of the start of the autumn extraordinary Diet session to September 10th, giving the prime minister time to travel to the APEC summit in Australia (to say his farewells?) and apparently to give new cabinet members time to prepare.

As Casey Stengel might say if he were still alive and, er, observing Japanese politics, “Can’t anybody here play this game?”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s