Saturday, January 19, 2008

Tip of the iceberg

Following Prime Minister Fukuda's remarks Thursday at the LDP convention, Ibuki Bunmei, LDP secretary-general, has also warned darkly of the possibility of the breaking of the LDP.

Speaking in Utsunomiya, Mr. Ibuki said, "If the LDP wins, the DPJ will break. If the DPJ wins, in the LDP people who cannot persevere will spill out."

There are plenty of public signs of the gathering storm within the LDP, but if the president and secretary-general of the party feel compelled to take their fears for the party's future public, then the situation must be worse than even press reports suggest. Given the barely concealed vitriol of the conservatives, who seem to feel that Mr. Fukuda has taken their birthright — control of the party for which they and their ideological predecessors yearned for decades — I don't doubt it.

But Mr. Ibuki is right: I don't expect any movement until after the election. But he's wrong about the winner staying united, the loser dividing. What will count as a victory for the LDP? retaining the supermajority? Best take out the carving knives now. A simple majority for the LDP, without Komeito? A simple majority for the government, but only with Komeito's help? Undoubtedly different actors within the LDP will have their own ideas about what constitutes a win for the LDP in a general election. I expect that Nakagawa Shoichi and the other ideologues will do their best to spin just about any outcome as a defeat, giving them due cause to reassert control over the LDP, and push out their dovish rivals, with a mitigating factor being a strong election performance by the doves that bolsters their numbers within the party. Barring that, the LDP will be rocked by just about any outcome short of the miraculous retention of the supermajority.

As for the DPJ, if it loses — although, again, there is a question about the definition of what constitutes a win for the DPJ — the party will have to confront the question of who will replace Ozawa Ichiro. As revealed back in November, there isn't an obvious replacement, meaning that when Mr. Ozawa goes, there's bound to be chaos within the DPJ as the party's proto-factions search for a new compromise leader who can assuage all factions or purge the party's conservatives, sending them into the arms of the LDP.


AC said...

Of course if the DPJ wins, they'll have to actually implement a program. Considering how many times the DPJ has declined to put forward an alternative bill in order to maintain "unity" among the socialists and conservatives that make up its roster, concrete policy could prove dangerous for the party. It's easy to keep the party together when you just vote against the LDP and focus on winning the next election; governing will be much more difficult.

Being out of power will destroy the LDP. Being in power might very well fracture the DPJ.

Janne Morén said...

To be fair, the LDP has managed to be in power for many years with little more in the way of a program implementation than "do whatever to stay in power". I think you can count on the DPJ to manage no less.

Japan Observer said...

I'm with you, Janne. Somehow I think the DPJ will find a way to govern — and holding power has a way of focusing the minds of would-be defectors on what's important (i.e., power).

AC said...

I suspect it's going to be harder for the DPJ to square that circle than it has been for the LDP, as the DPJ is a party that has scotch-taped together hardcore rightwingers and essentially unreconstructed socialists. Good luck coming up with a foreign and defense policy that doesn't completely alienate at least one of those two groups.

But if you two are right and the DPJ is able to effectively function as a patronage machine along the same lines as the LDP has in the past (that alone would be no small feat), then there isn't much point to electing them in the first place, and they won't stay in power for long.

The one benefit I can see to the DPJ taking power is that it's likely to accelerate moves toward political realignment.

Bryce said...

"I suspect it's going to be harder for the DPJ to square that circle than it has been for the LDP, as the DPJ is a party that has scotch-taped together hardcore rightwingers and essentially unreconstructed socialists."

Oh, so it's going to be like the LDP from about 1970 then?

In any case, the DPJ does put out policy manifestos that are the same mix of vague rhetoric and semi-concrete promises that I've seen elsewhere. I don't believe the LDP has done that. It has policy documents on all sorts of things, but the trouble is that you don't know who in the party supports said policy.

Maybe Japanese parties need a good shot of ideology to show everyone where they stand, but that is equally true of the LDP as the DPJ, if not, more so.

Willie said...


To the Japanese, the question may be where the patronage goes. Instead of another damn in rural Hokkaido, perhaps there will be money for rojin homes.

A lot of voters in the old US Democratic coalition were only in it for the patronage, but the system worked quite well for 40 years.