Actually, Hirotsu’s defection in some ways more closely resembles the exile of a more significant figure—the DPJ’s shadow defense minister—Keiichiro Asao, who was kicked out of the DPJ when he decided to vacate his Upper House seat and run for election in Kanagawa 4th District against the official DPJ candidate, reportedly spurning a last-ditch DPJ offer of the Kanagawa 8th District, still without an official candidate. This is not completely analogous to Hirotsu’s action, which appears to be a one-off decision propelled by the understandable fear that she may not make it this time by way of the PR bloc ticket, on which she would be forced to run. But the two share one thing in common: They both abandoned their respective parties not on a matter of principle but because they were not able to stand for election in a single-member district (of his choice in the case of Asao*). Hirotsu’s choice makes even more sense when you notice that the DPJ does not have a candidate in Saga 3rd District; instead, it is supporting the Social Democrat candidate there—seriously, do you really believe that the DPJ honestly wants to help the SDP’s chances in the Lower House election, especially when it sees very good chances of a simple one-party majority outcome?
But this is what passes for pre-election buzz. Note that Kunio Hatoyama has been all talk when it comes to moving out. And mini-warlord Hidenao Nakagawa has more or less stepped into line. Just as significant, the second most powerful Post-Office exile (Shizuka Kamei comes first on my ballot), Takeo Hiranuma, hasn’t been able to cobble together a meaningful political movement after four years in the wilderness. It’s also meaningful that the only people that the nascent Watanabe-Eda movement has able to attract so far have been has-beens and wannabies. With one month to go before the election, incumbents are not exactly in the mood for party rebellion. They’ll take what their parties give them—it they like what they see. But nobody seems to be in the mood to pull a wheel off the bandwagon while he/she’s still on it.
Seems sensible. But what about post-election? Well, never say never, but remember, in the aftermath of a DPJ victory, an important factor argues against a post-election breakout from LDP Lower House members. A LDP Lower House defector elected from a PR bloc after losing to his SMD rival in the DPJ (or PNP/SDP) will have an impossibly hard time dislodging him, while an LDP LH defector elected from an SMD will have to face down his erstwhile opponent, who is likely to have made it past the post on the PR bloc ticket. Yes, a successful pre-election LDP defector will also be unwelcome to the DPJ candidate that he/she beat out, but at least the ex-LDP, independently-elected LH member can lay claim to being the undisputable alpha dog in his/her SMD, having beaten out both the major-party candidates. On the other hand, staying in the LDP after a successful SMD campaign means that you are a survivor, a battle-tested member of a 100-to-200-strong corps with a proven, ironclad clamp on yourr local constituency. Why do you have to stoop to becoming a very junior loser-collaborator in a DPJ-dominated administration? Why can’t you afford to wait 3-4 years, max, in the political wilderness while the DPJ comes to grips with a decidedly difficult reality?
I’ve been wrong before, and I’ll be wrong again. And I do not claim to be a good reader of men’s hearts, present, or future. But the counterargument about LDP Diet members’ inability to endure the role of the opposition needs to supplemented with more substance.
* I received credible information before Asao’s breakout that pointed to him as the “relatively young but important figure in the DPJ” that Hidenao Nakagawa was conspiring with to form a third force in Japanese politics. If that information was correct, even the offer of the 4th District might not have kept Asao in the DPJ fold. My argument, in any case, is that such a post-election breakout will be very difficult.
Sorry, responding to comments often takes more time than doing posts of similar lengths. I promise to get back to you, but not now.