People not plugged into the Japanese-language media will likely miss this, so I’m reporting it. Today, Hirofumi Nakasone drew the long straw for the upper house LDP’s chairmanship in a tiebreaker against his favored opponent Shuzen Tanigawa. There are some caveats. Mild mannered Nakasone is the son of former Prime Minister Nakasone, but he never bothered to make the switch to the lower house, a distinctive display of a lack of political ambition. (Wanted: prime minister. Only upper house members need apply.) He is twelve years younger than his opponent, but at 64, the heritage politician more symbolizes the past than future of the LDP.)
Nakasone’s real significance lies in his improbable role as the anti-establishment, Koizumian candidate. The 21 upper house members who put their names on his official supporters list include Ichita Yamamoto, Satsuki Katayama, Yosuke Yoshiie, Yosuke Tsuruho and other younger and more policy-oriented and independent parliamentarians. By contrast, Tanigawa received the endorsement of three major (“major” is, here, also a relative term) factions, which had easily made him the initial favorite.
Yes, it’s the lower house where they play for keeps. Still, the luck of the draw for the upper house leadership position fans the hopes of the LDP’ young (relative term) and restless (absolute term). That is good for LDP cohesion, and generational turnover. It poses a setback for Ichiro Ozawa’s hopes of splitting the LDP and also increases the potential for negative fallout from his well-advertised poaching efforts.