At just before 2pm today, Prime Minister Koizumi and his party, the LDP (自民党 – jimintou) suffered a very big loss in the upper house of parliament here: A set of postal-service privatization bills that Koizumi had been personally championing was soundly rejected by a vote of 125 to 108. The TV new stations are saying that more than 20 members of the LDP itself voted against the bills. The outcome of the vote was not a terrifically big surprise. Based on comments from senior members of the LDP that were broadcast last night and this morning, they already knew before today that they didn’t have enough votes to win passage of the bills.
The real significance of it all is that prior to the vote, Koizumi had threatened that if it didn’t pass, he would dissolve the lower house of parliament and call an early election. The threat seems to have been (at least in part) an attempt to cow the rebellious members of the LDP into voting for the bill. Apparently, up until this afternoon, senior LDP members who had a pretty good idea of how the vote was going to turn out had been pleading with Koizumi to retract the statement about calling new elections. But he didn’t. And now he’s got to make good on his word.
As I write this (3:30pm on Monday afternoon), Koizumi is meeting to discuss the outcome of the vote with senior members of the LDP. The bad news for him and his party is that there is a significant chance the elections will split the LDP and ultimately lead to a government led by the main opposition party, the Democratic Party of Japan (民主党 – minshutou). If that happens, it will be only second time that the LDP has not led the government in the 50 or so years since the party came into power. In other words, it’d be a pretty big deal.
So the next few weeks and months here should be a little more interesting than usual, as far as politics goes.
On a side note: I was watching the voting live at the gym, where there is a long row of TVs showing 7 different channels. Four channels were showing live coverage of the voting, along with a tally at the bottom of the screen as the votes were cast. The counts were tallied separately by the different networks, but the final counts for all of them were the same — except for one network, Asashi TV. The other networks all had the votes tallied at 126 to 107. Asashi was the only one that actually had managed to tally it correctly (at 125 to 108).