While 57 members of the lower house had voted against the Consumption Tax Increase bill last week, a total of 40 dissenters did not represent the kind of numbers Ozawa might have hoped would shake the DPJ to its very core and force PM Noda and Secretary General Koshiishi into a very rapid retreat from co-operating with the LDP and Komeito on the passage of future bills. Furthermore, not long after their letters were presented, two DPJ members thought better of their actions and withdrew their resignations (possibly after seeing the dearth of support for splitting from the DPJ), with another two following the next day (although one of these later declared that he would become an independent).
In spite of the low turnout in supporters, Ozawa pushed on with his plans to form a new party, with various names banded about as possible titles for the party - the Shinseiken, or Shinseito, the Kokumin Seikatsuto or simply the Ozawa Shinto. If Ozawa had hoped that by splitting with the DPJ he might be able to form an alliance with other minor parties in the House to force a vote of no confidence against the Noda government, he may be sorely disappointed. In order for such a resolution to pass, Ozawa would need 51 votes in the lower house in order to reach the numbers required to force the Noda government to dissolve parliament and call a general election. At the moment he has 37, and it's not clear where the remaining 14 are going to come from. While he might be able to gain at least 9 supporters from the recently formed "Shinto Kizuna" party (who themselves are former DPJ members), this still leaves Ozawa 5 votes short.
Uesugi Takashi, in an article for the Diamond on-line magazine this week, made an interesting prediction about how Ozawa might gain the votes required. On Tuesday of this week Ozawa held a meeting with Suzuki Muneo of the Shinto Daichi, hence if he managed to convince Suzuki of his plans (which would certainly include a vote of no confidence), then he might be assured of 3 more votes. The problem is that this would leave the Socialist Party of Japan as the only other party with numbers significant enough to force a vote. At this stage, it appears fairly unlikely that Ozawa would be able to convince the SPJ to support his new party's platform, given the antipathy the SPJ has shown towards Ozawa's policies in the past (or maybe not, as this Yomiuri article implies). As such, if Ozawa was able to convince Kamei Shizuka (former leader of the Kokumin Shinto), Shinto Nippon's leader Tanaka Yasuo, and a member of former PM Hatoyama Yukio's faction to join him, then he might just get the numbers he needs.
Will this scenario play out? Possibly, but then again if enough of the remaining DPJ members in government choose to cross the Rubicon and vote against PM Noda then Ozawa will not need to expend energy trying to forge alliances with minor parties to get the result he desires. He may indeed have this in mind, with some remaining DPJ members functioning as 'sleepers' (credit goes to Yamazaki Hajime for this observation), merely waiting for the opportunity to bring down the Noda government and repay their debt to Ozawa (or possibly Hatoyama) for past favours received. As Aurelia George Mulgan noted in an article published this week, Ozawa, upon the dissolution of the short-lived Liberal Party in the early 1990s, apparently pocketed around 1.5 billion yen that would otherwise have been paid out to the conversative faction of the LP. By claiming that as the conservatives had seceeded from the party (rather than the party simply dividing), they were not eligible to receive any financing from their former colleagues in the LP.
Hence for Noda, who unlike Ozawa (and many other career parliamentarians) does not come from a political lineage (and so has far less economic influence over other members of his party), the pressure of retaining the loyalty of DPJ members that voted against his tax hike bill while searching for a means to castigate them for their dissent must be palpable. He can't afford to upset them, but at the same time he cannot appear to condone defiance within his own party. At worst, he might censure some party members (or, as in the case of former PM Hatoyama, suspend membership status for a set period of time), but any thought of expelling members would have been ruled out immediately following the resolution of the tax hike bill debate last week (after all, Noda does not want to just hand the LDP and Komeito a victory).
On that note, what will the LDP and Komeito make of all of these developments? One would think that they are merely biding their time, waiting for the end of the Diet terms in 2013 and using their influence over the Noda government to tweak any DPJ legislation to match their agenda. That may be why neither party has yet moved to have a no confidence vote against the Noda government (such a vote can only be made once during the sitting of a parliamentary period, hence the opposition would not want to play its trump card too early). It is far easier to manipulate the current government and ensure the passage of the Consumption Tax Increase bill and other pro-LDP platforms than to go to a general election and have to negotiate such bills from zero once again.
In the meantime all we can do is wait for Wednesday (the 11th) next week, when Ozawa is set to launch his new party. Although all indications are that it will be a failure (as it has no popular support and little political clout, as outlined by Michael Cucek here), it will be another interesting chapter in the career of the Japanese lazarus that is Ozawa Ichiro.