Tuesday, August 21, 2007

On Factions and the Prime Minister's Decision to Stay on

This is my answer to a comment on this post. Since it's been nearly a week since the original post, I'm reposting it. I think that it has content that stands on its own.


First, my apologies for not elaborating further on my habatsu comment. I'm easily distracted.

As for my response to your first question, I'm mildly surprised that there are still many first-term Diet members able to resist the call of the factions. Mr. Koizumi's support that they received in 2005 will have little to do with what kind of entry-level political appointee or party post they will get in, say, 2008, after they have their second Lower House election win under their belts. As for LDP HQ support, Tsutomu Takebe, the secretary-general who ran the 2005 election, launched an informal group of 24 junior Diet members consisting mostly of Koizumi Children. So, the real question is, do you stay on your own, cast your lot with a 66 year-old ex-SG who currrently has no formal role at party HQ, or join a faction? There is little political continuity at party HQ. In that sense, the LDP is closer to American political parties than ideological or religious parties.

Are factions lining up for/against Mr. Abe? I could have missed something, but could you be referring to Taku Yamzaki and Sadakazu Tanigaki's criticism's of the prime minister? Being at the other end of the LDP political spectrum, that's not surprising.. But they only have 51 Diet members between them out of 313 LDP faction member MPs (the rest are unaffiliated), and the others do not seem to be lining up along factions lines, except to secure cabinet, sub-cabinet, and party posts (with the Upper House members acting as a cross-factional faction of its own for cabinet posts).

It's little more than a guess, but I think it was Mr. Abe's decision, and his alone, to stay on. It was widely reported on the JMSM that Yoshiro Mori, ex-Prime Minister and Koizumi-Abe minder, Hidenao Nakagawa, then LDP SG, and Mikio Aoki, head of the LDP Upper House members, went to the prime minister to tell him that the LDP was likely to lose too badly for him to stay on. Mr. Nakagawa gave what must have been a heavily censored version of the visit on national TV, which still made it clear that resignation was at least one of the possibilities that they had broached. If the trio had been really encouraging, I am sure that Mr. Nakagawa would have mentioned it in his interview. Mr. Mori has given a decidedly anemic version of his role in the talks as well. (I suspect that Mr. Mori still has not completely reconciled himself to the fact that Mr. Abe declined to respect seniority and defer to Yasuo Fukuda in 2006).

Behind that diffident, hands-off demeanor is a self-contained, quietly insistent man of strong, if sometimes shallow, convictions.

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