With LDP prospects looking dire and even its coalition partner New Komeito facing something of a reputation risk by association, LDP officials and Cabinet members have been chiming in on the fate of the prime minister in the event of a debacle in Upper House election next Sunday.
As early as June 21, Upper House LDP Secretary-General Yoichi Masuzoe (who is the Bay City Rollers to LDP Secretary-General Hidenao "Big" Nakagawa's Beatles), irate over the one-week extension to the regular Diet session that the Abe regime rammed through to gain time to enact his version of public service reform, said on national TV, "It depends on whether the prime minister can explain why [the Diet session] was extended. If not, we'll suffer an enormous loss. There's the danger that the Cabinet may resign and the administration disintegrate", and repeated his complaint even more forcefully with the press. Mr. Nakagawa did some damage control over this and other grumbling from Upper House incumbent candidates - you would be pissed off too if you were an incumbent and your party leader decided that the best way to win the election was to give your opponents an extra week to campaign without any of the restrictions that come into effect once the campaign officially starts, while you were stuck in Tokyo tending to official business that you weren't sure your constituents really cared about – saying, "there's no possibility that the prime minister will resign just because we fail to retain a majority, since an Upper House election is [merely] an occasion for mid-term evaluation."
Things heated up even more after the Diet recessed and the campaign began in earnest, what with new accusations of political financing irregularities (implicating two more Cabinet ministers and awful damage control pushing LDP/Abe poll numbers further down). Poised to take over if Mr. Abe falters according to some speculations (which I discount), Foreign Minister Aso, as if to deflect suspicion of grave robbery, weighed in on July 12 with his view that "an Upper House election has nothing to do with the election of an administration; it's not the Lower House election."
Things got really dicey as the coalition poll numbers continued to fall, as a sitting Cabinet member, Yoshimi Watanabe, last seen here on this blog, sallied forth on July 23 saying, "If [management of the parliamentary process] ultimately comes to a dead end and nothing can be done about it, it will result in a choice of regimes."
The next day, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuhisa Shiozaki refuted this view, essentially reprising Mr. Aso's claim, saying, "Upper House lections have been deemed in principle not to be elections to choose regimes. So is this one. [Although there has been a case where a Cabinet resigned as the result of an Upper House election,] that was the decision of that administration." Shoichi "Little" Nakagawa also seconded these thoughts, stating that the election had nothing to do with nominating the prime minister.
Now I can understand Cabinet members and top LDP officials minimizing the consequences of the Upper House election. But it is definitely not music to the ears of Upper House members, who are being told that they don't matter, or to the public who are being asked to take it seriously and give up weekend travel plans (or go to the trouble of absentee voting) to vote in an inconsequential election. And all this defeatist talk is very depressing.
So it is no wonder that ex-Prime Minister and Mr. Abe's guardian Yoshiro Mori sought to dampen such LDP speculation, stating, "the prime minister is saying, "[we'll] do the [corroboration and notification [of the public pension records] properly." If it isn't done properly, the prime minister himself must resign. Isn't now the time to watch over the situation so that the work can go ahead quietly?" In the context of Japanese political parlance, you have heard Mr. Mori tell the LDP minions to shut up.
LDP jaws wag in disunion, Mr. Abe keeps his counsel, and Mr. Mori wades in to calm the waters. Have we heard this story before?