Yuriko Koike must stand for the LDP Presidential election, and I think that she will. She’ll lose, but it doesn’t matter; it’s her only chance to become Prime Minister. Someday. And when it’s fight or flee, she fights. Let me explain:
Yuriko Koike has latched on to a succession of political leaders; that’s how she’s made it to here. The downside of this nomadic career path is that she lacks a readymade group of Diet members to support her, and has failed to built up street cred with the LDP ward heelers (rice-planting experience with paddywhackers?). With her political clock ticking—she is 56—it’s time for her to make a move. The LDP leadership race and the sooner-rather-than-later Lower House election give her an opportunity to satisfy both her needs.
Everybody realizes that this LDP election is Taro Aso’s to lose, and the campaign period—12-22 September—is too brief to expect Mr. Aso to make a gaffe big enough to blow it all. But what’s the use of an uncontested election? The LDP will benefit from the media buzz from a clean fight, while the DPJ will struggle to keep itself in the media’s inbox. So, with little to lose and a lot to gain, the LDP will welcome an internal challenge; all she has to do to erase any lingering resentment is to act the gracious loser and vow to do everything to return the ruling coalition to power. In the meantime, she has established herself as the babyface of the Koizumian movement.
And work she will, since she is—assuming that she follows my advice—going to campaign in the Lower House election for all first-termers, the Koizumi kids, who want her to swing her chariot their way. Let’s say that only one-third of the 83 Koizumi children make it back and that she has gone to bat for all of them. That’s 28 Lower House Diet members who will be indebted to her. If half of them decide to support her post-Aso, add her seat to the mix and, right there, that’s 15 in the Lower House alone—more or less the size of a starter-pack LDP faction.
Helping others while neglecting her own campaign could be costly. But the extended attention in the national media that she will draw for her efforts should make up for some of the touchy-feely time that she will be unable to devote to her local constituency. And if she does wind up losing her own seat, she becomes a martyr. Regain her seat in another two, three years, and the people—and their local-yokel volunteers and assemblymen—that she helped out will be even more beholden to her.
At least that’s the way I see the value of this race. Or rather, the way—I think—that a risk-tolerant politician is likely to see it.