Sunday, September 02, 2007

Turn Around and They're Two: Whither the Koizumi Children?

And ere he blew three notes (such sweet
Soft notes as yet musician's cunning
Never gave the enraptured air)
There was a rustling that seemed like a bustling
Of merry crowds justling at pitching and hustling,
Small feet were pattering, wooden shoes clattering
Little hands clapping and little tongues chattering,
And, like fowls in a farmyard when barley is scattering
Out came the children running.

- Robert Browning, from The Pied Piper of Hamelin

Dear T:

It was very kind of you to inquire about the well-being of the Koizumi Children. I am sure they appreciate your concern. As it happens, today's Sankei has an article wrapped around the most recent meeting of Atarashii Kaze (New Wind) (est. 20 Dec. 2006), where Tsutomu Takebe, then-Prime Minister Koizumi's second-in-command for the LDP commissariat, brought together 24 first-term Upper House members and two second term members, all unaligned, under a gaggle of (actually, eight from five factions, including Mr. Takebe) seasoned backbenchers to promote "reform together with the people". The article, somewhat ominously, states that 17 of 21 first-term members attended the meeting. About to turn two (2006.09.11), the Koizumi children are being buffeted by the aftershocks from the Upper House election debacle.

The headline says it all:

Koizumi Children Fearful; Will Official [LDP] Candidates Be Replaced if Lower House is "Dissolved by Year End"?

According to the article, party HQ conducted an assessment of the electoral prospects of its 300 single-seat district Lower House members and found that only about 70 were favored to win, while the first-term members collectively projected as a near-total disaster. In order to maintain at least 240 seats (which, together with the New Komeito seats, should allow the ruling coalition to maintain its hold on the Lower House), Taro Aso, Secretary-General, and Yoshihide Suga, party election czar, intend to force Lower House members who have no hope of getting reelected to step down in favor of stronger candidates.

Normally, forcing out incumbents is not an easy task. Mr. Koizumi tried to do that for the last Upper House election; of the six, seven people targeted, only one stepped down. But these are not normal times, and first-term members lacking deep local roots who slipped in on Mr. Koizumi's sizeable coattails are particularly vulnerable. The article says that this policy is being met with approval from the majority of the LDP, and that second-fourth term members are particularly resentful of what they see as a bunch of pampered rookies whose careers had been promoted at their expense.

This is crunch time for the 66-year old Mr. Takebe as well, if he is to tighten ship with this motley crew in his efforts to build a durable power base of his own, if indeed that is his desire

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