Thursday, November 01, 2012

Why Is the LDP Playing Nice?

The LDP is now willing to take up the deficit bond authorization bill in the Lower House Budget Committee and select members for the Committee for the Comprehensive Reform of Tax and Social Security and Tax, not to mention moving forward with the five-up, five-down mini-reform for the lower house. There are several very good post facto explanations for this change of heart. First, the LDP has historically been more attentive to pleas from Keidanren and other business authorities, who, already un-amused by the government belt-tightening on top of the global and regional disturbance, will be beyond livid if the LDP and DPJ manage against all odds to drive the Japanese economy over the fiscal cliff. Second, the LDP is ahead. It does not need a game-changer. It will be content to play the equivalent of a possession game, making sure that the opponent doesn’t get an opportunity to score.

Doesn’t the LDP want an early election? Yes, but not at all costs. Push too hard and it runs the risk of pushing Noda off the cliff. If Noda’s position deteriorates further, it could precipitate further DPJ defections, all but forcing the DP to call for what will surely be a successful no-confidence resolution. If Noda calls a snap election, fine. But he is more likely to resign and let a caretaker prime minister call the snap election. What kind of a birthday bump would, say, a Prime Minister Goshi Hosono receive? That has the potential of an LDP nightmare in the making. In fact, Noda may anticipate his demise and resign without waiting for the resolution. Which brings me to my third point: better to escort Noda to the goal line if need be to make sure that he fulfills his promise to chikai uchi ni call a snap election. And if that allows Noda to carry on for a few extra months and put a few feathers in his cap along the way, so be it; that’s a small price to pay for a stab at four years of plenty. Speaking of which, a double election in July is looking mighty attractive…

No, I don’t think the LDP wants to stretch it that far, for that would mean that the Noda administration will have stocked its items inventory with the FY2012 supplemental budget, the FY2013 regular budget, and some meaningful legislation. Still, the LDP appears to be playing not to lose. And that buys time for Noda and the DPJ, and time can do so much. Stay tuned.

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