Fukuda loses his cool

At a press conference Monday, Prime Minister Fukuda expressed his anger at the DPJ’s rejection of the government’s efforts to pass compromise legislation on taxation.

“[The DPJ] has an attitude of entirely not deliberating on the budget-related tax bill. What can the Diet do about this? Speaking honestly, this is incomprehensible.”

Mr. Fukuda and the LDP executive has reportedly been leaning on Kono Yohei, HR speaker, to forge yet another compromise with the DPJ to forestall the “chaos” anticipated by some LDP members if the tax bill doesn’t pass by the end of the month. (Jun Okumura argues here that the chaos might not be nearly as bad as suggested.)

Perhaps the impression that Mr. Fukuda is not worried about his situation — suggested here — is mistaken. With his government’s six-month anniversary approaching Wednesday, his government is in trouble. Low popularity may be the least of his troubles. Most worrying is that Mr. Fukuda has had little success quelling internal conflict within the LDP, which will make it difficult for him to extricate himself from his situation. One conflict, of course, is the rift between the conservatives centered around the True Conservative Policy Research Group and risk-averse party elders, who are desperate to preserve unity; another rift, discussed in this article in Sentaku magazine, is between growth-firsters (led by Nakagawa Hidenao and Takenaka Heizo) and financial reconstructionists (led by Yosano Kaoru and Tanigaki Sadakazu). Keeping each of these groups content is a difficult, if not impossible task.

Who will Mr. Fukuda disappoint in the war over the tax bill? If no compromise emerges in the next week, will the government bow to the inevitable and not override the HC at the end of April? Mainichi suggests in this article that Mr. Nakagawa believes the government should not use the supermajority. Of course, if Mr. Fukuda lets the temporary tax lapse, he risks enraging his financial reconstructionist supporters, like Mr. Tanigaki.

The demise of the Fukuda cabinet is underway, although it will take months to play out. The timing will depend on who the government disappoints most over the next month.

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