Friday, February 13, 2009

Chuko Hayakawa: One Face of the Liberal Democrats

If anyone in the LDP has good reasons to distance himself from the Aso administration, it’s Chuko Hayakawa. Elected to the House of Representatives on his fourth! try for national office, the second-term Lower House member inhabits the reformist and left-wing regions of the LDP map, two topological features that set him apart from the traditionalist and right-wing forces that are putting the best face on their support, now likely regretted, for the embattled Prime Minister.

A commercial lawyer by trade with a strong interest in human rights, Hayakawa is one of the few LDP Diet members able to actually appreciate his entry-level political appointment as Parliamentary Secretary at the unglamorous, backwater, Ministry of Justice. (The real power is shared by the courts and the quasi-independent National Prosecutors Agency.) But at the ripe old age of 64, his chances of a future appointment to the top MOJ job—typically awarded as a Cabinet-level gold watch to long-serving party hacks or sop to a junior coalition partner—or any other Cabinet posting are slim. In short, the status quo does not work in his long-term favor.

Hayakawa also suffers under a double handicap as a) a still vulnerable sophomore Diet member—he like so many of his classmates escaped the rookie slump in the 2006 election on Koizumi coattails—whose b) independent-heavy urban electorate profile will be hostile to LDP incumbents this time around. So he’s up against a dilemma; he a) needs the LDP’s money and local help, yet b) needs to maintain a healthy distance from a highly unpopular administration that he does not feel comfortable with in the first place. Defection to the opposition is not an option either, since the DPJ already has a candidate up and ready to run against him. (Do not think for a moment that the DPJ is going to drop its own candidate to do him a favor. I’ve talked about this before; I’ve since come across evidence that deepens my convictions on this point. Besides, the DPJ candidate is an HR incumbent who is trying to upgrade a proportional district seat. )

Seen in this context, his actions make perfect sense, namely:
Diss the hapless Prime Minister;
Talk about realignment, including vague noises about a “new party”; and
Declare that you’ll resign from your political appointment of your heart’s desire; but then
Declare your loyalty to the LDP; and
Be “talked” into staying on by your boss the Justice Minister to finish your work at the Justice Ministry.
It is very easy to imagine this story slightly modified as an Edo-Era, samurai, costume drama.

Now I’m not saying that Hayakawa concocted this story; rather, it comes across as the natural outcome of the predicament that he and likeminded LDP members are in. Seen in that light, by thrashing about, he has established the outer boundaries of accepted behavior within the LDP that allows beleaguered HR members to maximize their chances of being reelected while keeping their options open for any realignment possibilities and still maintaining their LDP membership. Not good news for Taro Aso, but it’s increasingly every man/woman for him/herself.

You know, I think we’re talking about…cooties. Yes, Taro has cooties.

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