Policy, as Jun Okumura suggests, has pretty much taken a back seat to politics as both parties continue to position themselves in the new political landscape.
The immediate challenge is the prospect of the DPJ’s passing a non-binding censure motion against Prime Minister Fukuda should the government use its Lower House supermajority to pass the new anti-terror law over Upper House opposition. Mr. Fukuda has suggested that he would call a general election in response to a censure motion. While Hatoyama Yukio argued that the DPJ should not sell this weapon cheaply, the chances of the DPJ’s Upper House caucus pushing for a censure motion are high.
But why can’t Mr. Fukuda ignore it? The power of a non-binding censure motion derives entirely from perceptions. If Mr. Fukuda were to dismiss the motion as an abuse of the powers of the Upper House by the DPJ for partisan purposes, would the Japanese public dismiss his reasoning outright?
As far as the government is concerned, both Ota Akihiro, Komeito chief, and Ishiba Shigeru, defense minister, have rejected the idea of an early election, even as the DPJ announces plans to ratchet up its preparations for a general election.
I still remain dubious about the prospects for an early election anytime before the passage of the budget in the spring — and even then, I think the LDP may be able to hold off, especially if Mr. Ozawa is sincere about his critique of his party’s inadequacies and the need for some form of cooperation.