1) The differences within the LDP and the DPJ are much wider than the differences between the two. There are no powerfully compelling political issues that split the nation into ideologically opposed camps of significance.I say “hope” because, frankly, I think it came out more like the incoherent ramblings of a couch-potato blogger. I’m not going to listen to it myself; I’m too self-conscious for that. But, in keeping in line with my past actions, I’ll post the link when it comes online in a few days, if only so that you can see if I actually did manage to make those points.
2) The DPJ in the Ozawa era has disappointed me by moving away from a fiscally responsible position purely for tactical reasons. The media reports this political opportunism and blames it on Mr. Ozawa. The DPJ suffers in the polls for this, even as the LDP flounders.
3) Having said that, competition is a good thing in itself. Moreover, the DPJ, with fewer ties to the vested interests that have accumulated during more than 50 years of mostly LDP rule, may be a better agent of change.
4) A Prime Minister Taro Aso improves the ruling coalition’s chances for victory (which depends, of course, on how you define victory). We’ll see a bump in the opinion polls, which will help it in a early snap election. And as poorly as the LDP is doing in the polls, it still can put its votes together with the New Komeito’s 12-14 percentage point Sokagakkai votes in the 300 single-seat districts.
5) Take your mind off Mr. Aso’s bark and take a better look at his bite. You’ll find that his positions/statements on Yasukuni, the touchstone for Japan-China relations; the Northern Territories, the remaining obstacle to completing the normalization of Japan-Russia relations; and the refueling operations in the Indian Ocean, one of the two keystones in the projection of Japanese self-defense capabilities on the global stage, have been remarkably moderate. In any event, what passes for Japanese conservatism is often milquetoast by international standards.
6) Mr. Aso has insufficient gravitas for the Prime Minister’s job. He claims, rightly, economic credentials as a businessman. But a businessman’s perspective is not necessarily the right one for statecraft. Moreover, his policy preferences appear to lean more toward traditional remedies.
6) As for Yuriko Koike (the only other candidate that I was asked to comment on), her main interests were, are, international relations and national security. She has a substantial environment portfolio, but I suspect that it’s an acquired expertise, rather than something that comes from the heart.
Finally, I offer my humble apology to Mr. Aso for claiming that he has insufficient gravitas for the Prime Minister’s job because he tends to think out loud. Imagine what he would say about my performance.