From Davos: Is indecisiveness and scandal crippling Japan?

Dubai may be a no show, but Japan’s here and not doing much. General thoughts from my conversations here: 1) The Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) doesn’t look like it’s going to win a clear majority in upper house elections this summer. A precipitous change of events from a few months ago … but indecisiveness ...

By , the president of Eurasia Group and GZERO Media.
Kiyoshi Ota/Getty Images
Kiyoshi Ota/Getty Images
Kiyoshi Ota/Getty Images

Dubai may be a no show, but Japan's here and not doing much. General thoughts from my conversations here:

1) The Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) doesn't look like it's going to win a clear majority in upper house elections this summer. A precipitous change of events from a few months ago ... but indecisiveness and scandal has crippled Japanese Prime Minister Hatoyama, who was on the Davos programme, but cancelled last minute. Hmm. 

2) DJP kingmaker Ozawa is locked in a battle to the death with independent prosecutors.  consensus Japanese view in Davos: a) Circumstantial evidence shows Ozawa's guilty as sin; b) Prosecutors are operating above the law, with no countervailing force to stop them, and the Japanese media is out of control; c) Careers are at stake for both sides, with no backing down. Surprisingly enough, there's a growing belief that Ozawa is forced out. But the timeline (weeks, months, or more) is completely unclear. More hmm.

Dubai may be a no show, but Japan’s here and not doing much. General thoughts from my conversations here:

1) The Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) doesn’t look like it’s going to win a clear majority in upper house elections this summer. A precipitous change of events from a few months ago … but indecisiveness and scandal has crippled Japanese Prime Minister Hatoyama, who was on the Davos programme, but cancelled last minute. Hmm. 

2) DJP kingmaker Ozawa is locked in a battle to the death with independent prosecutors.  consensus Japanese view in Davos: a) Circumstantial evidence shows Ozawa’s guilty as sin; b) Prosecutors are operating above the law, with no countervailing force to stop them, and the Japanese media is out of control; c) Careers are at stake for both sides, with no backing down. Surprisingly enough, there’s a growing belief that Ozawa is forced out. But the timeline (weeks, months, or more) is completely unclear. More hmm.

3) U.S.-Japan foreign policy is heading for trouble given what looks like a scuttled military base deal … but nobody’s worried very much in the context of broader Japanese policy woes. Plus, Japan doesn’t really have foreign policy (and China, as we’re seeing, does). Dangerous trumps ineffectual; advantage Japan. No hmm at all.

Ian Bremmer will be blogging from Davos this week sending reports and commentary from inside the World Economic Forum.  

Ian Bremmer is the president of Eurasia Group and GZERO Media. He is also the host of the television show GZERO World With Ian Bremmer. Twitter: @ianbremmer

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