More on Koizumi’s address

Yamamoto Ichita, reformist LDP member of the House of Councillors from Gunma-ken, writes at his blog that journalists and other members of the Diet have contacted asking him to explain what Mr. Koizumi’s intention was in his Friday remarks.

He says:

You might say that the average person cannot understand the thinking of a political genius. (Laughter.) But Yamamoto Ichita’s hunch is that “The purpose of that Koizumi address is to support Prime Minister Fukuda.”

I got the same impression from the press coverage of Mr. Koizumi’s address. The overt purpose of Mr. Koizumi’s remarks was clearly to encourage Mr. Fukuda to stand strong and compromise with the DPJ on ending the special fund for road construction, a Koizumi bugbear.

In the process, however, Mr. Koizumi signaled to friend and foe alike that his word still matters.

Whether his word will prove decisive on the road fund, however, remains to be seen. The LDP is purportedly shifting its tactics: over the weekend, Ibuki Bunmei, LDP secretary-general, and Koga Makoto, LDP election strategist and road tribesman, suggested that the government might be willing to compromise with the DPJ on the road fund and the temporary gasoline tax, provided the DPJ submits its own bill on the fund. In other words, if the DPJ provides the LDP with political cover — “They made us do it!” — the government might be willing to consider scaling back the road fund beyond the modest remaubder that will be directed into the general fund in the government’s plan.

The DPJ has shown no sign that it will cave on this issue (yet). In the debate in the HR Transportation committee over the government’s revision of the bill mandating funding for road maintenance, the DPJ has done its duty as an opposition party, criticizing the government’s plan for moving some road construction money to the general fund as a fake plan that leaves most of the road construction fund untouched.

Koizumi or no Koizumi, the parties seem no closer to reaching a compromise that will enable the Fukuda government to move all of its budget-related legislation through the HC.

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