New prime minister Naoto Kan has to make a major decision that will likely characterize his style of leadership going forward.
The decision revolves around the current postal reform legislation – the bills, which would reorganize Japan Post to ensure greater government control and a firmer mandate of universal service, have already passed the Lower House but must pass the Upper House to become law. But there isn’t enough time in the current Diet session to get the job done in the Upper House. Kan has the option of extending the Diet session to get the bills passed, which would postpone the looming Upper House election. But should he?
The postal bills are incredibly divisive, potentially dangerous as policy, and have been crafted to pander to special interests without much serious thought to Japan’s long-term future. Bending over backwards to get the bills passed would be a clear sign that the DPJ-led government needs to rely on postal worker support to stay in power. He and his party govern in a coalition with the PNP, a small party with the postal workforce making up the bulk of its support base. The PNP has threatened to leave the coalition and deny the DPJ an outright majority in the upper house unless the bill is passed early.
On the other hand, not postponing the Diet session would imply Kan is opting for an early election, in other words he could capitalize on the support of the general public afforded him in the wake of his appointment as PM. Sure, this option might lose him the PNP, but he might not need them come July if things go his way.
So which will it be? Kan has apparently promised to decide on this tomorrow morning. I eagerly await his decision.