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    Post haste

    For anyone who’s wondering, of course I noticed that Prime Minister Koizumi has done a 180 on the revisions to the Japan Post reform bill. The line now is: “Revisions? I love revisions. Why, some of my best friends are revisions!”

    I like Koizumi’s support for the WOT, which I think demonstrates real vision and a keen sense of what civilization is up against. I also understand that putting reforms through in Japan is very tough. Even with the voters behind Koizumi’s overall housecleaning program, he’s had to deal with the multitudes of well-connected federal bureaucrats who know exactly how to press elected officials and party leaders to maintain their power.

    But that doesn’t mean that Koizumi has been handling things well. Japan Post reform is a hopelessly unsexy topic, and Koizumi has lost chance after chance to explain to the citizenry, in basic and lucid terms, why privatizing it is so important. (¥¥¥!) And it’s really bad in strategic terms to set a pattern of coming on all tough and implacable and then blinking at a critical moment (cf. the selling down the river of Foreign Minister Makiko Tanaka a few years ago) or going mealymouthed when the world is watching (cf. his non-explanation of why he continues to visit the Yasukuni Shrine).

    The result is not surprising: there’s a real chance that the opposition has made enough headway to keep the bill from passing in the House of Councillors:

    Yomiuri Shimbun interviews with all 114 LDP upper house members revealed that opposition is mounting in reaction to Koizumi’s high-handed manner in deliberation as much as on the substance of the bills.

    “I’m upset about the fact that Secretary General Tsutomu Takebe and others in the leadership aren’t even trying to tame the prime minister so that he won’t use the threat,” said an upper house member who wished to be identified only as a former cabinet minister. The former minister was referring to Koizumi’s threat to dissolve the lower house if the bills are killed.

    Even a member of the Mori faction, most of whose members are backing the postal bills, said he was not happy about Koizumi’s style.

    “He’s only inviting more opposition. In the upper house deliberation he must adopt an extremely humble manner in answering questions and all that. Otherwise we can’t improve the rough atmosphere,” the member said of Koizumi.

    Koizumi is still saying that people shouldn’t fixate on his threat to dissolve the House or Representatives because, naturally, the bill will pass. Ten upper house members attended the strategy session for LDP opponents of the bill last night, however. All it will take is 18 LDP votes against for the bill to fail, and there are more than 8 Councillors still on the fence. We’ll see.

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