Friday, December 05, 2008

The 50-Somethings Are Restless; But CanThey Make the Move?

First, it was Yasuhisa Shiozaki, Yoshimi Watanabe, and Toshimitsu Motegi fronting the “Association of Volunteer Diet Members Who Seek Rapid Realization of Policies (Sumiyaka na Seisaku Jitsugen wo Motomeru Giin no Kai)”—yes, something is lost in translation—being uppity and demanding that the Aso administration submit the second tranche of the economic stimulus package that Taro Aso had been telegraphing even before his elevation by the unexpected resignation of his predecessor as Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda. Even as faction leaders dumped on the dissenters, the loquacious rocker MHC Ichita Yamamoto reinforced their message. These men have continued to take potshots at the regime, the no-holds-barred Watanabe (sort of) daring the powers-that-be to kick him out of the party. Today, Nobuteru Ishhara added his voice to the fray, gaving a talk in which he claimed that “70 to 80% of LDP Diet member have doubts as to whether we can fight an election and stay in power under the Aso administration. We are looking into an abyss politically and economically.” The Prime Minister in his newly chastened soft-talk mode tried to laugh it off.

These men have much in common. They are all in their early to mid-fifties, charter members of the Policy New Breed (Seiasku Shinjinrui), who drew first blood in the 1998 Financial (Reform) Diet. They have had their share of glory over the next decade, but have chafed at the bit as their more powerful elders, dyed hair and all, flat out refuse to leave center stage. Now, there’s a real possibility that the brass ring will be grabbed away before they can even touch it by the DPJ, such are fortunes of the Aso administration and the LDP. No wonder then, that they are increasingly fearless of the consequences of the wrath of their betters.

Fighting an election under the current regime is a high-risk, low-return proposition for the LDP, but turning the reins over to his cohorts such as, say, Kaoru Yosano or Sdakazu Tanigaki does not appear to improve the odds much. There’s a good case to be made, then, for replacing the party leadership with the tail-end baby boomers if the LDP is to stay in power. But do the elders have the grace to yield, or more vitally the young ‘uns the gall to push them aside? To be continued.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for your comments on the LDP. (OP from the other day here.) I read this one with interest also. I wonder though, if you have everything in here. We know that the goal of the LDP after its first few years was essentially a system of factions designed to try and get their bosses to be PM. And that the status of having been a minister was essentially what government was about. Actually making policies? Meh, leave that to the ministries and their interminable Shingikai.

I wonder if you don't do a disservice to the younger crowd here by putting in the same camp. That is, perhaps in this instance the "Introduce Some Damn Policies Quick Will You Group!" (alternative translation) actually might not be able to be taken at their word. And if so, they do indeed represent a different model of politician than before - one for whom gaining a post is - at least in part - about actually governing competently.


anonymous optimist

Jun Okumura said...

anonymous optimist: You’re right, I merely addressed the politics of the generational gap. I’m sure that the party elders do care about statecraft as much as any other age group, but I do believe that there is a difference in the attitude toward policy-making between the baby boomer leadership and their immediate elders. It can be exaggerated—among sexagenarians, Yosano and Tanigaki, and Koichi Kato, for instance, certainly have the policy-making chops to hold their own with the bureaucrats, and Hidanao Nakagawa is positioning himself as even more of a reformist than Prime Minister Koizumi ever was —but the seisaku shinjinrui’s hands-on approach and more importantly their attitude towards the status quo does represent a shift, probably for the better where the long-term health of the nation is concerned.

To go back to the point of my post, the baby boomers are politicians, quite often heirloomers as well, with the extra baggage that comes with it, which figured acutely in the short, unhappy rein of their age group cohort Shinzo Abe.

Having said that, I hope that your optimism will be justified by the events.