Thursday, June 2, 2011

Kan Prevails

In the end, Ozawa withdrew his support for the no-confidence motion. Without his support it stood no chance; the motion was defeated 293-152.

The LDP and to some extent the New Komeito are arguably losers in this. The no-confidence motion would have happened in any case, largely as a symbolic raspberry to the sitting cabinet1, but with Ozawas possible, then probable support it took on real meaning and the LDP leaders invested a fair amount of their political capital in seeing the motion pass.

Kan is, well, not the loser he looked to become just this morning. He had to promise to resign as soon as the Tohoku disaster situation and Fukushima stabilizes, but he was well on his way out already and would not have survived politically beyond that point anyhow.

Yukio "I-must-have-left-my-brain-in-the-other-suit" Hatoyama optimistically predicts mid-June for a leadership change; when you look at the progress in Tohoku and in Fukushima I would not be surprised if he stays until September. And with the no-confidence motion behind him he is guaranteed to break the one-year barrier with his prime-ministership, and become the longest-sitting prime minister since Koizumi.

The Japanese public and the Japanese political system are both losers - but they were the moment a few bright bulbs decided that several hundred thousand citizens in refugee camps and an ongoing nuclear disaster is a perfect time to plunge the country into (worse) political disarray.

The big mystery to me is Ozawa; is he a winner or a loser in this sorry charade? Perhaps he overplayed his hand; he realized he didn't have the numbers to topple Kan and elected to withdraw rather than follow through and get kicked out into the political wilderness. On the other hand, he made the LDP look foolish (there is no love lost between him and that party) and extracted a promise to resign from the prime minister. My bet is that he tried and lost. The current result is a bit of a consolation prize, nothing more.

Now, nothing has really changed. The Kan cabinet will still fall soon; the DPJ will still fly apart in the not too distant future; the LDP is no more ready to rule again than they were a year ago; and nobody has any clue, nor much interest in, breaking out of the political deadlock the country has been stuck in for the past decade.

#1 This is considered normal, ethical behaviour here. A lot of Japanese politics resemble nothing so much as a schoolyard of spiteful 7-year olds.


  1. Regarding "longest-sitting prime minister", I keep wondering whether resigning is part of the job description for Prime Ministers in Japan ;)

    And regarding the Fukushima situation, I was listening recently to a SciFri show about it and they didn't sound too optimistic. Apparently, it's only barely under control and still quite a way from actual improvement. What's the situation like, seen from Osaka?

  2. "A lot of Japanese politics resemble nothing so much as a schoolyard of spiteful 7-year olds."

    As Rome burned...Nero was seen to be playing the fiddle...

    The current situation would be unbelievable except I live here and know it's true.


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