Sunday, January 13, 2008

"Not Prince Hamlet, nor was meant to be"

With the imminent rebirth of the former Kochikai, the LDP faction that until the 2001 Kato uprising was the home of the mainstream tradition in the LDP embodied in Prime Ministers Ikeda, Ohira, and Miyazawa, Tanigaki Sadakazu, LDP PARC chairman and former finance minister, has been making talking about the role the resurrected faction will play in a political realignment.

To that end, Mr. Tanigaki recently met with Ijima Isao, former confidante of former prime minister Koizumi, who declared that unless Mr. Koizumi puts his hat back into the ring, Mr. Mr. Tanigaki is the only leader for the "conservative mainstream" at present. (I'm not sure whether it's still plausible to call the Kochikai mainstream within the LDP, in light of the inexorable rise of the revisionists over the past fifteen years.)

That doesn't strike me as the most ringing endorsement of Mr. Tanigaki, and I suspect that if the much-discussed realignment ever comes about, Mr. Tanigaki will be muscled out of the way by either Mr. Koizumi or somehow else who combines both popular appeal and an agenda that balances reform and attentiveness to public concerns about the consequences of reform. Masuzoe Yoichi, for example, could very easily step into this role given both his crusading reformism (often directed at the bureaucracy) and his ability to empathize with the frustrations of the Japanese people when it comes to the failings of the health and welfare systems.

One thing seems clear, however. The new Kochikai will not slump back into the role of being the voice of the bureaucracy in the LDP. (Indeed, looking at the background of LDP Diet members, the pipeline from bureaucracy to backbencher appears to have been severed. The career politicians won.) If Mr. Tanigaki is serious about echoing the DPJ and putting lifestyle concerns first, his new faction will necessarily find itself battling the Japanese bureaucracy, which bears much of the blame for the state's indifference to the concerns of Japanese citizens.

Meanwhile, the true size of the resurrected faction is in doubt, thanks to the subterranean, cross-factional support for the candidacy of Aso Taro for the party presidency. The Aso movement, which presumably incorporates Nakagawa Shoichi's "true conservatives," is far larger than Mr. Aso's faction, and will likely dwarf the new Kochikai. I remain convinced that the LDP remains for the taking of the ideologues, regardless of whether Mr. Aso or one of his comrades is the standard bearer.

3 comments:

Bryce said...

I don't get this. Koizumi is a scion of the ex-Mori, ex-Fukuda, now Machimura faction right? Why would he be another candidate of the leadership of the old conservative mainstream. If anything, he was the individual most responsible for driving the mainstream out of the LDP to the benefit of the DPJ, and he's not particularly coy about it either.

If there is going to be a political realignment soon, it's more likely to take the form of an DPJ electoral victory than LDP deckchair shuffling.

Japan Observer said...

Yeah, I don't quite get why Iijima thinks that Koizumi would be their man.

I expect it will be a combination of both: enough time in opposition and you might see the old conservative mainstream forced out (or pulled into the orbit of the DPJ).

Bryce said...

How are they "in opposition"? You mean within the political-system-that-is-the-LDP, right?

In any case, they don't call them the mainstream for nothing. My prediction is that at the next election, whether the LDP wins or loses, they will make a major play to regain the party once the Koizumi kids are swept away.