Legislative storm!

As Nagatacho waits for Mr. Fukuda’s maiden speech to the Diet, which will presumably outline how his government intends to proceed in the remaining weeks (months?) of the current special session of the Diet, the DPJ has decided to strike first on the legislative front.

Following Mr. Ozawa’s orders to the DPJ’s Next Cabinet, the DPJ is executing what Asahi calls a “storm of legislation.”

“This offensive,” writes Asahi, “originates in Mr. Ozawa’s ‘command.'”

“On the morning of the 26th, Mr. Ozawa spoke on the phone with his inner circle on ‘how to proceed on legislation.’ Reporting on the problem of ‘leading without followers,’ on the same day he attended a meeting of the DPJ’s ‘Next Cabinet.’ Calling on responsible NC members one by one, he said, ‘If nothing is submitted, the DPJ’s popularity will fall to earth’ and strongly pressed for all sorts of legislation to be submitted to the Diet during the current session.”

The ledger of bills includes a bill to revise the system of support for disaster victims and post-disaster reconstruction, a bill on support for the disabled, an emergency countermeasures bill for hepatitis, and a pensions system reform bill.

Does this pronouncement suggest a reduced emphasis on pressing for dissolution of the House of Representatives and a snap election, an election for which the DPJ may not even be ready? (The DPJ just concluded a “regime change” pact with the PNP and SDP, with provisions for DPJ support for 20-25 PNP, SDP, and independent candidates, and a perusal of the DPJ website shows that the party has not finalized its Lower House nominations yet — a process which Mr. Ozawa reputedly wants to micromanage, though I can’t help but wonder what kind of time he has to review each candidate for the LH.)

Perhaps the increasingly likely prospects of a general election — a Mainichi poll found 74% of respondents desiring a general election within the next year, and Mr. Fukuda has certainly made clear that he’s not averse to the idea — have focused Mr. Ozawa’s mind on the problem of how to sell the party in an election that could be just around the corner, particularly in the face of a more competent government. But the “legislative storm” could backfire, in the sense that any legislation the DPJ manages to pass will be the result of cooperation with the government, leaving the DPJ to fight with the LDP over who deserves the credit (and criticizing the government for bills not passed).

This could have the opposite effect from what advocates of a two-party system have hoped for: rather than having election campaigns focused on policy, divided government could result, at least this time around, in a campaign rooted in the personalities of candidates and the party leaders and vapid slogans about advancing reform and castigating the other as “the old LDP.” (With Ozawa as the leader of the DPJ, a Fukuda-Ozawa showdown could actually come down to this last point.)

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