Tuesday, September 18, 2007

LDP Presidential Election Procedures and Related Trivia

In 2001, hopeless underdog Junichiro Koizumi swept 123 of the 141 Prefectural chapter electoral votes with less than 60% of the popular vote. (42 of the 45 chapters that decided to hold party members votes had opted for winner-take-all). This put enormous pressure on the Diet members to fall in line, and Mr. Koizumi was elected LDP President. The rest, as they say, is history.

To make sure history would not repeat itself, the LDP changed its election rules. While making party member votes mandatory, it made the D'Hondt method, a variation of proportional representation, mandatory. Moreover, it made sure that the popular vote would not unduly influence the Diet members by stipulating that the results would be disclosed simultaneously with the Diet member voting. However, emergency situations such as the current election were not covered by the new rules. In fact, technically, anything goes, and it is this loophole that the Aso campaign placed its hopes on, as is discussed here, in my original post as well as the comments. Today's Yomiuri gives more detailed information on the matter, though not as much as the hard copy version. Here are the salient points:

Of the 47 chapters, 35 will hold popular votes by all party members. Of the rest, six will hold votes by a limited number of local leaders and delegates (between 80 and 851; the size of the chapters vary, so the individual numbers do not necessarily indicate the levels of representation), two are undecided, two have already chosen their favorite son candidate (Gunma, Yasuo Fukuda; Fukuoka, Taro Aso, but more on that later), one leaves it to the discretion of the local party leadership, and one will make its decision in a way that, with the very limited information available in the Yomiuri article, I can only call osmosis.

The top-down Fukuoka decision to give it up for Mr. Aso does not please some people there. In fact, six of the 12 Diet members there have lodged a formal protest with the chapter chairman, a Prefectural assemblyman, so far to no avail. Two of the Fukuoka Six happen to be Taku Yamazaki and Makoto Koga. Both are faction leaders in their own right, and, of course, Fukuda supporters.

Of the 35 chapters that have opted for universal suffrage, as it were, only ten have chosen winner-take-all, while two others have yet to decide. So, at most, 12 out of the 35 will chose winner-take-all, which favors Mr. Aso, the underdog and therefore risk-loving candidate. Of the seven Kanto area Prefectures, to which I now assume that Nobuteru Ishihara was referring on Sunday Project, five have indeed opted for winner-take-all. The other two are Mr. Fukuda's Gunma Prefecture and Ibaragi Prefecture, the latter having left it to the discretion of the local party leadership.

There is a genuine possibility that the results of the popular vote will influence the decisions of the Diet members. In fact, in a bizzarre twist, the six Diet members from Kanagawa Prefecture have gone overboard by pledging their own electoral votes to the eventual winner of the local votes, making the Kanagawa vote a nine electoral vote winner-take-all event.

More generally, to prevent such undue influence, LDP headquarters had implored the local chapters to withhold disclosure of their choices until the Diet members' vote, on the 23. However, only 11 agreed to do so (of which Kanagawa's disclosure is moot because its six Diet members have already pledged their own votes to the winner). 29 will announce their decisions on the 22nd - the day before the election, two on the 21st, one on the 19th, and two on a date to be determined. Gunma and Fukuoka have already made their decisions.

So there is a real chance that pre-release of the Prefectural results can influence the ultimate outcome. But because of the widespread adoption of proportional representation, it will take Mr. Aso an overwhelming victory in the Prefectural vote and defection of enormous proportions from the ranks of Diet member Fukuda supporters to pull it off.

Thus, the details that I provide here in no way make me alter my conclusions of yesterday. However, I thought the making-it-up-as-you-go-along feel of the process has its own charms, the political game in the purest of meanings. So I thought that I should provide a little explanation for the benefit of those of you who cannot read Japanese but enjoy the thrill of the hunt.

And the answer to your question, Anonymous is, yes, I do need a life. But boys will be boys.

Now, back to work.


Skippy tastes better than Jiff said...

I've heard that in general the rank and filers are really quite displeased with the factionalism of the LDP, but I suppose this has little meaning in the real world.

Aso has also positioned himself nicely in the case the inevitable loss comes to fruition. Aso seems much more personable and also feisty. I thought Aso would probably stand up to Ozawa a bit more firmly than Fukuda. (I don't mean policy-wise but literally be a little bit more "in your face.") I always considered that to be part of the Koizumi "charm" factor, even though I've been known to miss the mark by a mile (or a km) concerning Japanese politics.

Thanks again for the update. I really like to read your insights.

Jun Okumura said...

The LDP faction is the institution everybody, including the LDP itself, has loved to hate since the beginning of time aka 1955. I don't have a feel for the LDP rank-and-file's feelings for factions. However, there does seem to be an inherent conflict between the highly localized rank-and-file in the municipalities and Prefectures and the nationally franchised fraternities of LDP Diet members and wannabies that we know as factions. Thus, I can understand the resentment of the locals when it appeared that the decision was being taken out of their hands when the traditional LDP leadership appeared to fall in line to bless Mr. Fukuda's candidacy and used the faction mechanism to do so. The fact that 35 Prefectural chapters have decided to hold plebiscites is, I believe, in part a reflection of this underlying tension and anger, though not aimed directly at the factions. Likewise, I suspect that the abdication of responsibility by the Kanagawa Lower House Diet members in no small measure is intended to appease the foot soldiers.

Aso is certainly the more effective debater. Beyond that, though, they both seem remarkably accessible and low-maintenance as Diet members go. Perhaps they are the common traits of children of political privilege who grow up in Tokyo. As for standing up to Ozawa, if there is any difference between the two, I agree that it will be more likely a matter of style, not substance. Mr. Fukuda as Prime Minister Koizumi's Chief Cabinet Secretary appeared quite effective in dealing with the ferocious Makiko Tanaka. As long as he does not come across as flustered and weak, he should do as well as Mr. Aso could.

I'm not sure there will be another chance for Mr. Aso. He pretty old himself, and if steady-handed Mr. Fukuda goes down, that's when the LDP could go down as well, into the opposition. But I'm just speculating here.

Thanks for your kind words. Again. I know that there are people out there reading this blog, but it's always nice to hear from you guys (in the gender-neutral sense). Even from critics, since it forces me to think and, hopefully, get some zingers off. If I sound angry on some – many - of those occasions, yeah, sure, but that's part of the game too. If you want safe and snug, you don't belong on the Internet, right (courtesy of Slate)?

Martin said...

I make my first post here on Abe's birthday. It must be a pretty miserable one for him.

I get the impression that he was thoroughly loathed throughout Nagatacho. Nobody likes a chap who's been asked in the nicest possible way to go, but won't take his leave.

To be briefed against so relentlessly must have been horrific - no wonder he's opted for hospitalization.

I suppose we'll never know whether that Gendai story exists or not...

So, it looks like by anointing him as his successor, Koizumi has gone quite some way toward fulfilling his vow to "break" the LDP.

The takaha have had the promised crack at popularizing their brand of national socialism. But the message doesn't resonate with the public. Or perhaps they picked the wrong guy to front it and the wrong guy to spin it.

My wife once had dinner with Fukuda. "Reticent" is probably the word that best sums up her description of him.

So how long can he prevent Ozawa from forcing an election? The outcome would be, of course, a foregone conclusion. The machine must have access to a huge silo dirt on Ozaawa - definitely no need to resort to anything as ingenious than the gase-neta meeru to do away with this latest DPJ chancer.

Jun Okumura said...


Thank you for your comments.

"Tell Michael, it was only business. I always liked him."
- Sal Tessio, The Godfather

When you say "thoroughly loathed", I assume you mean that in a nice, professional way, rather than in the I-take-it-personally, Saddam-Hussein sense of the phrase. Somber, reserved, and relentlessly earnest, Mr. Abe got by on his likeability. However, his inability to exercise and project authority led to ridicule and scorn from the opposition, the exasperation of his LDP and coalition colleagues, and perhaps most seriously, indifference and even pity from the public. But he was never really hated; thus, I think that the nation as a whole breathed a sigh of relief when he finally decided to call it a day (so typically at the most inopportune of moments). And frankly, Mr. Abe himself too. Wisely, they are keeping him out of sight until the LDP Presidential election is over and the new Cabinet is safely installed. I'll be just a little bit surprised if he finishes out his Lower House term.

It was you Fredo. I know it was you. You broke my heart. You broke my heart.
- Michael Corleone, Godfather II

By the Gendai story, you mean the "Aso fucked me over" back story, right? The tabloids are less reliable than TV, which is less reliable than the mainstream dailies. There's an ecological relationship between the three, where juicy stories often percolate up and down and around the food chain. There's also some interesting pick-and-roll going on between the domestic and foreign media. But I digress. In this case, I'm inclined to dismiss it. Mr. Abe had been a dead man walking since the Upper House election; there was no reason Mr. Aso and/or Mr. Yosano couldn't wait for a couple of more months, give or take a few weeks. Besides, if they are lying about it and they fail to bump Mr. Abe off, how long will it be before the true story comes out?

I'm guessing your wife did enjoy the dinner with Mr. Fukuda though. I saw him up close only once, a couple of years ago at an evening going-away party that the US Minister threw for a retiring minister-counselor, and I liked the way he slipped in and out almost unnoticed, apparently coming just to say hello. No speeches, no formal introductions, nothing – unthinkable for most politicians, particularly someone of his prominence.

I'd believed that a Fukuda administration would last well into the summer. However, Mr. Fukuda has been making overtures to the DPJ about an Upper House dissolution, i.e. general election, by mutual consent (the actual word used is hanashiai) after the FY2008 is passed. That would bring the election date up to late April, early May. I don't think that there's any way for Mr. Ozawa to force an earlier election.

By the way, I believe that this is part of what you could call a charm offensive that is aimed at making the DPJ look intransigent and irresponsible; the LDP conciliatory and reasonable. The LDP also wishes to expose and widen fissures within the DPJ. It began with people like Nobutaka Machimura suggesting a Grand Coalition, continued with Mr. Machimura and other worthies pushing UNSC recognition of JMSDF refueling activities, and emphasizing dialogue throughout. There should be other examples. And in this script, Mr. Ozawa, stiff, unsmiling, and overbearing, is typecast to the villain against its mild-mannered hero in glasses; the LDP hopes.

Preempting and co-opting the DPJ domestic program is also an important part of the LDP soft-sell strategy. But I haven't really thought things out there.

Martin said...

Thanks so much for your illuminating feedback.

The Gendai piece I alluded to was, in fact, the slush fund exposé, rather than the "Aso stabbed me in the back" story.

At any rate, I get the feeling that "Fuku-chan" has a good chance of emerging as a relatively effective, and potentially popular, PM.

Jun Okumura said...

Oops. Sorry. I read all the newspaper ads for the weekly tabloids (as well as the headlines for their daily counterparts, the "sports" newspapers, at subway kiosks), but sadly do not have the time to actually read the real thing. I used to catch glimpses on the trains, but everybody is fiddling with their cell phones these days. Must be tough times for the print media.

According to the ad in today's newspaper, the latest Shukan Gendai is now claiming that the slush fund scoop felled Prime Minister Abe, and has attached a special article by Takashi Tachibana, the godfather of all investigative journalists (among other things, he took down Prime Minister Kakuei Tanaka), which lends credibility. If they get their hands on some solid evidence that the authorities (tax or criminal) cannot ignore, the story will take off in the mainstream media. Otherwise, the story has no legs.

The supermajority revote on a new counter-terrorism (I cannot bring myself to write anti-terrorism in this context) act is, I believe, a done deal; it's now a matter of political theater. Beyond that, if Mr. Fukuda manages to 1) square the nuclear program/abductees circle on North Korea and 2) begin laying the groundwork for sustainable public pension and healthcare programs, all the while 3) staying the course toward rebalancing public finances, I'll give him an A-plus for statecraft and my vote for the all-important political game. Hey, only three wishes. How much easier can I make it for him?