Monday, August 31, 2009

The LDP: “Who’s Up Next?”

You’ll be reading all about why the DPJ won/LDP lost, and what tasks it faces in governing/rebuilding. I assume that most of the commentary will be at least plausible—the takeover has been three years in building, with at least many months to coalesce, so there’s a high degree of consensus—and it’s Monday. So I’ll post later if and when I come up with something to add. In the meantime, the side story to the LDP side story:
I think that Shigeru Ishiba is the most natural choice, given his national appeal as an honest broker, defense and agriculture creds, and a moderate/progressive outlook that will not alienate the urban floaters. And he gets to keep Aso’s Akiba crowd. Okay, he’s a little weird, but he's relatively youthful, projects sincerity, qualities that the LDP desperately needs. I’d say Nobuteru Ishihara is highly unlikely to emerge on top, though he will have obvious uses as a babyface. I expect Yoichi Masuzoe to be given a very prominent role, given the need to win the 2010 House of Councilors election. Ichita Yamamoto, another articulate middle-of-the-road HOC member, will also be promoted, at least in the media. Oh, and I think Yasufumi Tanahashi is the favorite to emerge as the U-50 leader, though I see him as more an operator than public face.
It’s my response to an inquiry from a colleague, edited for public consumption. If I’m spot on—something that I’m not too good at—the public face of the LDP will have a geographically balanced rural/provincial/urban profile with a surprisingly moderate/progressive profile. I say “surprisingly” because some experts see a rural, conservative shift, given the drubbing in the metropolitan centers and among the Koizumi Kids.

Let me just add that many LDP elders are returning, and the ones that made it back on the SMD ticket need to be watched to see if they try to reassert their authority. Fat chance, you might think, but I suspect that Yoshiro Mori in particularly will have a hard time stepping aside gracefully.


TKYCraig said...

So what are the key options for the LDP 'going forward' (pardon my MBA-speak?).

Given the results that stripped them of the Koizumi kids, and returned most of the old-guard... is it likely they will return with "more-of-the-same"?
Where is the fresh direction (that the electorate has requested) going to come from?
Is Ishihara-san a safe option (Reasonably young and fresh, but still with the right political heritage/pedigree)?
Any other options?

Jun Okumura said...

TYCraig: The media certainly are curious, and going after the usual suspects to look for copy. Right now, they seem to be playing it by ear, finger in the wind. The media says Masuzoe has bowed out—I put him down to lead the charge in the 2010 HOC election; they need someone to challenge Hatoyama in the Diet, and that can be done most effectively in the HOR—and that Machimura is making noises. Although I don’t think anyone who returned by the PR bloc backdoor can lay claim to the throne, Machimura’s call for a return to its conservative roots—in contrast with what he sees as the DPJ’s social rdemocracy—will resonate with many of the other elders.

But what does he mean by “conservative”? Abe, Aso, as Prime Ministers, did not go to Yasukuni. Nor did they propose to abolish welfare. And neither does Machimura. In fact, beyond a more or less articulated sense of mistrust toward China and a more vocal if unofficial desire to revisit history issues on the external front and a usually soundless plea for women to be more womanly—get married, have/raise children—I have trouble seeing how “conservative” plays out on real issues. We are all social democrats.

I remain convinced that Shigeru Ishiba remains the best option to the naked eye. I’d advise the LDP to get behind him, straddle the internal divide with his technocratic instincts and impeccable background, and attack the DPJ on competence and integrity at every opportunity. (Yes, I understand the audacity, but I think that politics is coarse enough that the public will turn its attention more on the DPJ than the LDP’s past.)