Fukuda the pressured

Watching the news this morning, I saw Fukuda Yasuo’s remarks yesterday on whether he intends to reshuffle his cabinet in advance of the autumn extraordinary session of the Diet.

As before, he stated that he has not made his decision yet, that he is considering the “whole situation” in regard to conditions within the LDP and the policy agenda for the forthcoming session. He repeated that he will make his decision on a reshuffle by 29 July, incidentally the first anniversary of the LDP’s historic defeat in the 2007 upper house election.

Ibuki Bunmei, speaking in Osaka, confirmed that the prime minister has yet to decide on a course of action.

The look on Mr. Fukuda’s face was grim, almost pained, and his speech was strained.

In short, it looked and sounded to me like he had made up his mind on a reshuffle: he doesn’t want to do it.

However, it seems that he is being forced to make a show of considering it and may even be pressured into going through with a reshuffle, thanks to pressure from within the LDP (channeled through a pliant political press). That seems to be all there is to the idea of a reshuffle: leaks to the media from certain members of the party and government who desire a reshuffle in the hope of hounding the prime minister into deciding in their favor.

As noted previously, it’s not even clear what a Fukuda-colored cabinet will look like. Yamamoto Ichita provided one answer to this question: “Blue.”

Asked to explain what the Fukuda “color” following a luncheon meeting of the Machimura faction by a reporter, Mr. Yamamoto answered that it is difficult to say just what Mr. Fukuda stands for, what qualities a Fukuda-colored cabinet would possess.

Masuzoe Yoichi, minister for health, labor, and welfare, made the case on TV Thursday for his staying in his post (i.e., that he is appropriately Fukuda-colored), describing his leaving the ministry after less than a year as “idiotic.”

Mr. Masuzoe’s comment gets to the heart of the matter. If Mr. Fukuda is forced to reshuffle his cabinet, the third cabinet within the past year, it will be yet another sign of the LDP’s reverting into the hands of its risk-averse elders — and yet another sign of the LDP’s unsuitability as the vehicle for fixing the mess that it has created.

It’s time that Mr. Fukuda followed Koizumi Junichiro’s advice and made a decision, preferably a decision not to reshuffle, thereby reasserting his authority (for the time being anyway).

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