Cooperation breaks out

One meeting between Mr. Fukuda and Mr. Ozawa, another scheduled for today, the MSDF’s ships on their way home, and all of the sudden the political mood seems to be completely different.

With the LDP eager to avoid a general election before September 2009 and the DPJ seemingly cognizant that it’s not enough just to pass laws in the Upper House, both parties, according to Asahi, “can be seen to be working to compromise, and the confrontational mood is beginning to fade.”

One area being considered for a compromise is the drafting of a permanent law on JSDF dispatch, which would necessitate three-way discussions among the LDP, DPJ, and Komeito inside and outside the Diet on the principles that should guide JSDF missions abroad. Undoubtedly this debate would distance the DPJ from other opposition parties, but that may be an unavoidable consequence of the DPJ’s having to work more with the LDP, a problem that does not concern the others. That said, this concept remains a possibility, and nothing more.

A more immediate area for cooperation is a revision of the political funds control law. While the LDP, DPJ, and Komeito agreed in a private meeting to revise the law to require reporting of all expenses over one yen, the challenge, Mainichi suggests, is moving the discussion to a meeting of the Diet Strategy committee chairmen that includes the other opposition parties, while hammering out remaining differences between the LDP and DPJ on the specifics of the revised law.

There is still the looming problem of a new law authorizing the MSDF’s refueling activities, on the agenda for the Friday meeting, but at least they’re talking about practical differences on matters of legislation, and not grandstanding or name-calling. Now that the ships are coming home, I am curious to see whether the LDP will be able to convince the Japanese people to support sending them back in a few weeks. The permanent end of the refueling mission might be a price worth paying for constructive debate on the other, more pressing issues on the policy agenda, particularly if the parties can revisit proposals for Japanese (probably civilian) contributions to the reconstruction of Afghanistan on the ground. Jun Okumura has a solid proposal for how something of this nature could happen.

At least the DPJ has finally learned that with the dissipation of its momentum from the Upper House election win, it needs to have something to offer the public, which means shaking hands with Mr. Fukuda every once in a while. Is Mr. Ozawa prudent enough to manage the task?

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