Tuesday, August 09, 2005

I failed to see the 364-kilogram gorilla in the room last night at an unscheduled wide-ranging discussion of the dissolution of the Diet.

Dr. Richard Samuels of MIT saw it. He tried to alert us all to its presence by describing the coming election as the long-awaited grand historical moment. METI info meister Okumura Jun's comment, that next prime minister would have to be acceptable to the Komeito, also pointed in the direction of the unspoken alternative--if only by being, in retrospect, probably incorrect.

Professor Suzuki Kuniko also hinted at the initial steps toward this new realignment. She noted that Hatoyama Yukio, Kan Naoto and Ozawa Ichiro are openly holding meetings without asking Okada Tatsuya to join them--a performance the trio repeated last night.

It was only when I heard Koizumi's pledge from last night to resign “if the coalition of the LDP and the Komeito did not win a majority of seats” that I came to think of Koizumi's possible plan.

Since his improbable rise to the presidency of the LDP, Koizumi has seen off most of the decrepit, insincere elements of the LDP coalition: the construction tribe, the napping Old Boys and now the Kamei-led hardliners. The Komeito is the last piece of the coalition that is to be ripped away. Koizumi will complete the process by clasping Kanzaki tightly to his bosom as they go down together in electoral defeat.

Following the election, Koizumi will honor his promise and resign the presidency of the LDP. What he will be leaving behind, however, will be the antithesis of the sprawling, constipated and timid coalition of rent-seekers he took charge of four years ago. The lower house LDP members who survive the September 11 election will be, for the first time in decades perhaps, actual politicians: able to both win tough elections and make tough policy choices. This kernel of center-right political professionals will be an attractive junior coalition partner for a DPJ holding a plurality but not an outright majority of seats in the House of Representative.

First, it will be leaderless, at least initially (a headless LDP should be more pliable when it comes time for parceling out the ministerial and secretarial positions).

Second, it will share virtually every one of the purported policy goals of the DPJ.

Third, it will not be the Komeito.Hatoyama and certainly Ozawa can see such a grand DPJ-LDP coalition--long the pipe dream of so many reformers--looming on the horizon. In the event of a coalition, Kan will be a vital guarantor of the liberal credentials of the DPJ, relieving the pressure on Yokomichi and a number of the other former Socialists to bolt.

...or am I wandering off the path into the wilderness (again) on this one?

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