Despite strong differences over policy, Ichiro Ozawa, former head of the ruling Democratic Party of Japan, has agreed to meet with Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda, possibly next week.
Noda is desperate to gain Ozawa's cooperation in raising the consumption tax rate, an issue upon which he has staked his political life.
Ozawa's willingness to meet with Noda was splashed over the media.
DPJ Secretary-General Azuma Koshiishi, who acted as intermediary, will also attend the meeting.
During a May 23 Diet session, Noda could hardly contain his enthusiasm for the meeting.
He said he would try to win over Ozawa on the need to raise the tax and "explain why (the bill) must be enacted at any cost."
We fully understand Noda's eagerness for the meeting. We also recognize the political importance of talks between Noda and Ozawa on an issue upon which they sharply disagree.
What we can't understand is why Koshiishi had to act as an intermediary, as if he was a special envoy for peace talks.
What is this political brouhaha all about?
Diet members should realize that such uncouth, theatrical behavior does nothing but deepen public disgust with politics.
Ozawa is now just a rank-and-file member of the DPJ. He once served as the party's leader and thus is a seasoned politician. Even so, he likes to describe himself as a mere "foot soldier."
That being the case, he should have close and cooperative relations with Noda, the ruling party's president, just like those between two friendly neighbors.
In fact, Ozawa’s private office is located within a five-minute walk of the Prime Minister's Official Residence.
If there is an important issue the two lawmakers need to discuss, they don't have to wait until next week. They should try to meet whenever and as many times as necessary at wherever possible.
Speculation is rife in Nagatacho, Tokyo's political power center, about what will happen at the Noda-Ozawa meeting. Some say the party could split up if the two fail to agree on the consumption tax issue. Others argue they cannot allow Koshiishi to lose face.
This "Nagatacho culture" does nothing to bridge the gap between people and politics.
Ozawa frequently meets with Diet members belonging to his own group, whether day or night. But this will be his first face-to-face meeting with Noda since the administration was inaugurated almost nine months ago.
It is apparently Ozawa's strategy to maximize the political value of his meetings by not agreeing readily to hold talks with political rivals or opponents.
This is an amazingly old-fashioned political approach.
We don't demand that politicians make decisions and take actions as quickly as the chief executives of businesses operating in a free market economy. But we wonder whether they can be a bit more nimble and flexible in doing their jobs.
We rarely, if ever, see news reports in the Western media about a meeting between a member and the leader of a political party that "can happen as early as next week."
Being a part of the Japanese media, which eagerly anticipates the expected Noda-Ozawa meeting, The Asahi Shimbun is now reflecting on the strangeness of our own reports on the matter.
Let us say that the two politicians should just meet without making a big deal about it.
--The Asahi Shimbun, May 24
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