Thursday, September 25, 2008

The end is nigh

I have previously speculated on the consequences of Aso Taro's becoming prime minister for the future of the LDP.

In this post, for example, I wrote, "...If the conservatives retake control of the LDP under Mr. Aso and reunite with Mr. Hiranuma, that alliance could prove fatal for the LDP, as the readmission of Mr. Hiranuma and the other postal rebels could lead Mr. Koizumi and his followers out of the party, perhaps prompting liberals unconnected to Mr. Koizumi to leave too and drift towards the DPJ."

It seems that it may not even take Hiranuma Takeo's return into the party for Mr. Aso's election to be the catalyst for an exodus of reformers from the LDP.

The immediate catalyst instead is Koizumi Junichiro's decision to not run for reelection and let his 27-year-old (my near contemporary) son Shinjiro run in his stead.

As MTC notes, with Mr. Koizumi goes the last thread connecting his reformist followers with the party. Those reformists were undoubtedly aware that they had no place in Aso Taro's LDP; as Yamauchi Koichi wrote, Mr. Aso's new cabinet is purged of members of Nakagawa Hidenao's "rising tide" school. Instead there is an assortment of politicians looking to prime the pump a bit more, with Yosano Kaoru included in the mix to lend an air of responsibility to the proceedings. (I wonder why he is willing to participate in the farce, if he's serious about what he says about the need for fiscal retrenchment.)

The question now is whether Mr. Koizumi's followers leave before or after a general election. Why they would stay around to campaign under Mr. Aso's standard is beyond me. I do not expect them to join with Ozawa Ichiro's DPJ, which undoubtedly they see as little better (cf. Nakagawa Hidenao's posts on the DPJ). Will we see a three-way general election, with a Koizumian New Party the wild card?

Whatever the outcome, the LDP appears to be on the road to becoming a rump party comprised of an alliance between nationalist hawks and party stalwarts longing to break open the bank.

Even in his retirement, Mr. Koizumi retains his flare for the dramatic, in the process wrecking Mr. Aso's long-awaited opening night.


mike thies said...

I hope you're right. The unwieldy alliance of reformers and "dinosaurs" within the LDP can't be sustained, and the only real question is/was who would leave whom. I suppose it makes most sense for the reformers to go and start anew, and for the dinosaurs to go down with the LDP label.

I'm hoping that the reformers split off before the election, and maybe try to get like-minded folk in the DPJ to join them. But even if it takes another election cycle, I don't see either the LDP or the DPJ holding together for much longer.

Anonymous said...

While there is weakening and ordered chaos within the LDP, I would argue that is nothing new. I do not think that the Koizumi camp is ready to bolt, and I certainly do not think the end is nigh for the LDP.

The election will result in a weakened LDP, more political chaos, and perhaps an incentive for temporary cooperation between LDP and DPJ.

Your continuous beating of the drum that the LDP's days are over as the governing party are not convincing to me, though I personally despise the politics of Aso and would almost prefer Ozawa. Almost.

Tobias Harris said...


I hope I'm right too. But I just don't know. The initial polls — see my latest post — suggest that Aso is not in and of himself a game changer. The voters are not entirely convinced that Aso is capable of delivering what they want, which is an opening for the DPJ.

But you're right, it may take at least another cycle before the partisan alignment is settled.


It's possibly that the Koizumi camp won't bolt — the initial reaction seems mostly confusion.

But are they really so wedded to the LDP label that they can't conceive of splitting? What glory is there in being the neglected anti-mainstream, with little hope of reclaiming the LDP leadership?

Of course, on the other hand, the new polling also showed that the public is little interested in their policy agenda. So perhaps the reasoning is better a slave in the LDP's household than slaughtered by the voters alone.