Last Thursday former Prime Minister Koizumi Jun'ichirō, his former lieutenants and allies in tow, made what seemed to be a show of force , demonstrating that he had at his disposal the votes necessary to stymie an Article 59 two-thirds majority override procedure.
Last night, in what was seemed a painful statement to make, the Lionheart pulled back hard on the reins, stating that should the secondary budget bill be brought up in House of Representatives again he would walk out of the chamber...which would be, of course, counterproductive to his cause, as lowering the number of members present makes it easier for the government to secure the two-thirds majority it needs to override the action or inaction of the House of Councillors.
I can think of two reasons for Koizumi's sudden gearing down of his attack against Asō Tarō:
1) Someone reminded Koizumi that a revolt against the party president would really mess up the chances of his second son succeeding him in the Kanagawa #11 seat (Koizumi forgets these self-interest things sometimes)
2) Nakagawa Hidenao (Nakagawa the Sane) decided a revolt was not a part of his plans right now
[I have never been able grasp Nakagawa Hidenao's game. His tactics are inexplicable, given what his strategic goals should be.]
While Koizumi's pullback seems to be good news for the PM, the latest Kyōdō poll is an unwelcome "Welcome Home" announcement greeting the PM on his return from his trip to Sakhalin. The poll, conducted over February 17-18, saw the Cabinet support level drop another 4.7 points to 13.4%, a result which the Chūgoku Shimbun claims is the second lowest reading for any prime minister. There is still plenty of room down below for Asō to go, however, as this same article claims that Mori Yoshirō hit rock bottom at 6.5% - which is the lowest number for any PM that I have heard so far, beating the 7% reading for Takeshita Noboru (Harris, "Aso follows Mori's Path").
The PM, who, as Okumura Jun notes, loves being the PM, can also take little comfort in this morning's Asahi Shimbun survey of the 47 prefectural branch executives of the LDP. Sure, he "won": 30 of the 47 prefectural executives surveyed said that they were ready to contest the next House of Representatives election with Asō as the party leader. However, 7 party executives said it would be better if someone else were party leader. The 10 remaining party executives did not indicate a preference either way.
What is remarkable about the survey is that everything is on the record--the identities of the executives not coming out in support of Asō and their reasons for doing so are all there, for anyone to see. The LDP prefectural executives wishing to contest the next election under a new party president are those in Yamagata, Gunma, Gifu, Shizuoka,Yamaguchi and Okinawa Prefectures and Osaka-fu.
Most embarrassing is the admission by party executives inside all the three groupings - those For Asō, those For Somebody Else and those who Can't Say - that they cannot think of an appropriate candidate to replace the current party president -- and for some of the party executives in the "For Asō" column, the lack of an obvious successor is the reason they are supporting the current party president.
The party has sunk that low.
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