Thursday, September 27, 2012

Why the Same Old Same Old (LDP)?

Nobutaka Machimura (67) G2
Sadakazu Tanigaki (67) G2
Shinzo Abe (58) G3
Nobuteru Ishihara (55) G2
Yoshimasa Hayashi (51) G4

The five candidates for the LDP presidency all directly owe their political career to their fathers*. They all grew up in Metropolitan Tokyo, although Hayashi moved out in grade school when his father took over the family lower house seat in Yamaguchi Prefecture. They are all in their fifties and sixties, yet Machimura was the only faction leader among them, yet he nor the real proprietor of the “Machimura” faction, soon to be retired Yoshiro Mori, could not convince Shinzo Abe, from the same faction, to step aside so he could have the full backing of the faction. Abe, the eventual winner, is s former prime minister who’s short-lived reign essentially ended when the LDP-Komeito coalition lost its upper majority in the 2007 election.

Add a few murders here and there and a little incest there, and it begins to look like a Game of Thrones spinoff…not.

Seriously, folks, the joke among my friends was that they could then go to Yasuo Fukuda, Taro Aso, and back to Tanigaki and Abe and keep repeating this four-year cycle until Shijiro Koizumi grew up.** Fukuda is retiring, but his son has been picked to replace him. But why is the LDP looking more LDP than ever?

First, it's hard to make your mark when your party is out of power. Take the DPJ. Akira Nagatsuma got his big chance (and the risk of spectacular flame-out) by his huge role in taking down the Age administration over the public pension missing accounts scandal, but that's the exception, not the rule. Goshi Hosono was already a rising star, but without his multiple government and party assignments, he would have been less able to create separation between himself and the rest of the policy wonks who appeared on talk shows to push the DPJ line. The LDP has been out of power for three years, essentially treading water waiting for the DPJ to trip and break its neck. It’s hard to emerge from the pack when that’s the game plan.

Second, the 2009 elections diminished the ranks of first- and second-termers, which enhanced the relative power of the really old guard, for what it’s worth. First-term Shinjiro Koizumi has been able to jump the queue as the party poster boy and hold his place despite challenging the party line largely because he is Prime Minister Koizumi’s son. Success literally has bred success.***

* G2, G3 and G4 indicate two, three and four generations of diet members in direct descent respectively. Nobuteru Ishihara did not run in his Shintaro Ishihara’s old district, but his bid as well as much of his subsequent career would not have been remotely possible without Shintaro Ishihara’s nationwide celebrity status and local presence as an LDP-friendly Tokyo governor in his second life. Yoshimasa Hayashi, the only upper house member of the five, first got elected when his father was still a lower house member and has been stranded there since because he has been unable to find an open lower house district to his liking in his home prefecture.
** I compressed the entire set of email communications, with the final story taking shape in a bilateral exchange with CW, in case the others on the original thread are wondering where the rest of the material came from.
*** Not to deny Shinjiro Koizumi’s formidable all-around political skills and maturity, but he would not even have been nominated as an LDP candidate if his father had not been an incumbent Diet member.

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