More trouble on the BOJ succession

In a meeting between Oshima Tadamori and Yamaoka Kenji, the Diet strategy chairmen of the LDP and DPJ respectively, the two parties came closer to an agreement on joint personnel decisions. They discussed a proposal that envisions an “expanded representatives committee” of twenty from both houses that will question government-nominated candidates about their policy positions in closed hearings, although the records of the hearing will be released once a successor candidate’s term ends.

However, Mainichi reports that the question of the BOJ succession is becoming the subject of a growing struggle within the DPJ between pro-Ozawa and anti-Ozawa forces. At the same time that the DPJ leadership is struggling to reach an agreement with the LDP on how to vet nominees, Mr. Ozawa is fighting a rearguard battle within the DPJ. Edano Yukio, a former head of the party’s policy bureau, and Sengoku Yoshito, the head of the party investigatory subcommittee handling joint appointments, are opposed to the nomination of Muto Toshiro due to fears for the independence of the BOJ from fiscal authorities. Mainichi suggests that this dispute is becoming the first major power struggle since Mr. Ozawa’s aborted resignation last November.

Mr. Ozawa, not surprisingly, fired back, reminding Mr. Sengoku that his subcommittee’s remit is limited to reporting to the party executive on the candidate under consideration. Slightly to my surprise, Kan Naoto and Hatoyama Yukio, Mr. Ozawa’s fellow executives, closed ranks behind him, reminding the dissenters that the final decision is theirs.

Wrapped up in this issue is the question of the September leadership election. Mr. Ozawa is also facing pressure from Okada Katsuya, a potential successor to Mr. Ozawa, who has said that he feels “uncomfortable” with Mr. Muto’s nomination for the same reasons as Messrs. Sengoku and Edano. Mainichi warns that should Mr. Okada link up with the other dissenters, “it could quite possibly influence the outcome of this September’s party leadership election.” For the moment, however, Mr. Okada hasn’t completely nixed the Muto nomination, at least according to Fujii Hirohisa, a channel of communication between Mr. Okada and Mr. Ozawa. And Mr. Ozawa’s reelection looks increasingly assured, as a series of party leaders have come out in support of Mr. Ozawa’s remaining the head of the party.

With the party leadership united against letting Mr. Sengoku’s subcommittee call the shots on the nomination, it is unlikely that the dissenters will get their way. The BOJ succession will proceed, but a bit less smoothly than the government and the markets would have hoped. I just wonder why Mr. Ozawa gave them an opening in the first place. And I wonder how Mr. Ozawa, not known for being charitable with those who dissent from his course of action, will deal with his rivals. (Or has control of the House of Councillors tied Mr. Ozawa’s hands in dealing with intraparty rivals, as in the case of Ōe Yasuhiro and other dissenters on the special road construction fund?)

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