Sunday, 29 August 2010

Strategy in Politics

Occasionally, you get to watch strategy at work in national or world events as they play out around you. Although not privy to all the details, it can be fascinating to observe events as they unfold, with an eye to the moves and the tactics of the main players.

The Ozawa Situation
I have never been particularly interested in politics, and politics in Japan, even less so, but the current situation in Japan is just too interesting to ignore. Ichiro Ozawa, the 'kingmaker' is making a bid for the throne. He is not a popular politician with the public at large, and his name has been besmirched over the last few years with the taint of financial scandals, but he has emerged ready for a fight for the leadership of his party, the DPJ, and the country itself.

It is the stuff novels are made of - the backroom politicking must be intense. Setting aside personal opinion, what is obvious is that Ozawa is a master of the game. He has built up his influence and support, allowed Yukio Hatoyama, the ex-prime mimister to take the blame for reneging on impossible election promises, let his successor, Naoto Kan, work off the inevitable resentment and unpopularity arising from the current strength of the yen against foreign currencies, and is now poised to step in before Kan has really had a chance to get to work.

But how has he got this chance? The unfathomable rules governing political parties seem to dictate that elections for leadership should take place within the party on a regular, unchanging basis - never mind that the current leader has just taken over the reigns of power, now he has to battle to hold onto his position as well as lead a country. Never mind, also, that polls show 75% of the country see no reason to change leadership, the situation allows Ozawa to fight in an arena where he holds most of the cards, in the closed arena of his own party. Far easier to win here than in a general election. He has even threatened to leave the party if he doesn't win... a strange move for a man who says he has the party's best interests at heart.

And why? Cynics would say it's naked ambition. The chances of being able to win the next election are already looking slim - it will probably be back to business as usual with the LDP in power, and the DPJ might not get another look-in for 10 years or more, so he is probably right in thinking that if he doesn't take a shot now, he will never become PM.

Of course, it's all politics, but now is a fascinating chance to watch a master at work.

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