Meanwhile, on Wednesday Maehara spoke at the FCCJ and backed down slightly from his stance on the renewal of the law, placing the onus on the government to speak more openly about the impact the mission in Afghanistan has had — and indicating that he will obey his party’s decision — even as he reiterated his belief that it is important for Japan to contribute to the fight against terrorism.
It seems that Mr. Maehara will not be going anywhere, and may even succeed at forging a compromise that enables Japan to continue to contribute even as the DPJ rakes the government over the coals for its subservience to the US. In fact, Sankei has reported, in another article not online, that DPJ members are preparing trips to Europe and the US to exchange opinions with officials about how Japan can contribute in Afghanistan.
Mr. Ozawa must be given credit for holding the line on the anti-terror law (even if I don’t agree with his stance). Indeed, we’re a month out from the Upper House election and the contrast between the LDP and the DPJ is revealing: the LDP is confused, seeing no way out of the hole that Mr. Abe has dug for the party, while the DPJ is confident, united, and fully prepared to use its Upper House veto power in the coming months. This may not be a permanent situation; the public can be fickle, after all. But if Mr. Ozawa can somehow keep the party’s big tent together, assuaging both the Maehara group and the former Socialists, we may actually be witnessing the creation of a new permanent majority party, which may have been Ozawa’s goal all along (veteran Tokyo correspondent Sam Jameson has speculated about this).
Much will depend, of course, on how the DPJ follows through on its promises, not least to Japan’s small farmers, as MTC notes. But it’s difficult to see how the LDP is going to revive itself without the DPJ making serious tactical mistakes. In fact, I think we can gauge the LDP’s desperation by the growing calls from LDP members for the creation of an LDP-DPJ grand coalition. The latest call is from Takebe Tsutomu, former LDP secretary-general, who argued that such a coalition would ensure that the government would be accountable to the people. Meanwhile, Nakatani Gen, who was at the FCCJ Wednesday with Maehara, also suggested that a grand coalition might be desirable. I guess they reason that if the public supports a grand coalition, the LDP stands to gain if its members call for one and the DPJ repeatedly nixes the idea.
I remain unimpressed by the idea, and I don’t think that the DPJ’s troika is going to fall for it. As Maehara said at the FCCJ, there is a 99.99% chance that the DPJ will turn down any offer of a grand coalition. But even if the highly improbable grand coalition were to happen, the LDP’s salvation will not come in the embrace of the DPJ. The party has yet to figure out what the post-Koizumi LDP is to be, and until it does, it will flounder. For Japan’s sake, I hope it doesn’t take too long. Japan is in need of a proper two-party system, not a new permanent majority party (even one with a reformist tinge).