The DPJ keeps pushing

With the Fukuda cabinet’s popularity in free fall thanks to the fallout from the Atago incident, the DPJ’s stance on the government’s nomination of Muto Toshiro to be the next BOJ president has become decidedly less ambiguous. The DPJ has indicated that there is no chance of its consenting to Mr. Muto’s nomination.

In response, Ibuki Bunmei, LDP secretary-general, has criticized the DPJ for “playing politics” with the nomination. Playing politics. As if the DPJ is in the wrong for exercising its prerogatives as the largest party in the House of Councillors and forcing the LDP to respect the opposition.

Mr. Ibuki, the game has changed. Through a series of accidents, the DPJ is once again in a position to criticize the government for its poor handling of just about every issue it faces. This is the approach emphasized by Ozawa Ichiro, who spoke of the government’s breach of trust in the relationship between LDP and DPJ, and Yamaoka Kenji, who suggested that if there is a vacancy at the BOJ, it will be the government, not the DPJ that bears the blame. The government, the DPJ reasons, will be the anger of the global markets for failing to do whatever necessary to placate the DPJ and ensure a smooth transition at the BOJ.

The DPJ may be right, because, after all, among those whose voice actually matters when it comes to forming governments, I imagine that the LDP’s claims that the DPJ is “playing politics” with the BOJ transition will stick less than the opposition’s claims that the government has mishandled every issue it has confronted and can’t even tackle corruption and malfeasance within the bureaucracy.

Another turn may be waiting in the wings, but it looks like the DPJ has played this issue right: from the start it focused on the process of HR-HC “dual-key” nominations rather than specific nominations, preserving its options to cooperate or resist depending on the public mood. The government, so certain that it would get its man, only now seems to be preparing alternative nominees (Yamaguchi Yutaka, a former BOJ vice president, has been suggested) that might placate the DPJ.

Welcome to the divided Diet, Mr. Fukuda (and Mr. Bunmei, et al).

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