Friday, September 28, 2012

The LDP On Course For Disaster

Okumura Jun has put the question to the Internet: doesn’t the LDP want to win?

The answer seems to be an emphatic "No."

First the party's Diet members elect Abe Shinzo, a walking time bomb, as party president, in defiance of the wishes of the party's prefectural chapters.

Now out of either a mindless automatic bow to party unity or a sense of pure malice, Abe is on course to naming a party secretariat whose member will struggle to contain an impulse to strangle each other, all while trying to engage a confident and at last largely internally coherent Democratic Party of Japan.

It is traditional for the winners in LDP presidential contests to offer high-ranking posts to those whom they defeat. However, Abe's naming Ishiba Shigeru, the man whom he beat in the runoff election after Ishiba had won in the first round, his secretary-general shows an inordinate amount of respect for tradition and total a lack of respect for common sense.

First, Ishiba is smarter than Abe. Try as he might to submerge his emotional responses out of respect toward the Party and hierarchy, he will find it difficult to not telegraph when he thinks a certain Abe utterance or position is idiotic.

Second, one of the main responsibilities of the secretary-general is to mollify and unify the Diet membership. However, as the results of the the presidential votes showed, Ishiba is unpopular with his fellow Diet members. He knows that he cannot rely on even 89 legislators who voted for him, as many of them only voted for him as being the "non-Abe" candidate. How Ishiba is going to maintain the peace when so many of his colleagues detest him is a mystery.

Finally, the secretary-general is seen as the commanding general of the party's electoral campaign. He has final say on district candidates and party lists. How is Ishiba ever going to keep Abe from trying to override or go around Ishiba's decisions as regards the running of elections?

Former Internal Affairs minister Suga Yoshihide, a card-carrying member of the Friends of Shinzo, is predicted to be named Executive Acting Secretary-General (Kanjicho daiko) -- the de facto press secretary of the party. He will, due to his close ties to Abe, find it difficult to avoid the temptation of ignoring Ishiba, his nominal superior, and deliver the unfiltered Abe message, however inflammatory that message may be.

Ishiba will, of course, just have to accept whatever Suga says, rather than the other way around.

As for the job of negotiating the management of the Diet with representatives of the DPJ, that job is being handed, of course, to one of Ishiba's core supporters, Hamada Yoshikazu. Abe's coterie knows that the job will be a thankless, if not utterly impossible, one. That their fervent desire for early elections and confrontation with China will make policy coordination with the DPJ as bad or even possibly worse than it was during the presidency of Tanigaki Sadakazu means that the Diet Affairs chairmanship is the booby prize.

As for chairman of the Policy Research Council, the rumored appointment of Amari Akira, another card-carrying FOS (he sat to the left of Abe during the presidential election. Historical revisionism poster girl Taka'ichi Sanae sat to Abe's right) would complete the hemming in of Ishiba, who by title should be in charge of running party affairs, with persons whose loyalty is to Abe alone.

A recipe for party disfunction if there ever was one.

Which begs my question: will the New Komeito still want to hang around with the sad sack of a party, considering how appalled they were at the Abe policy program in 2006-7?

Later - News organizations are saying that Abe will be appointing the brilliant (he passed the lawyer's exam on his first try while he was still in college) former Minister of Foreign Affairs, former Minister of Defense, faction leader and early Abe supporter Komura Masahiko to the ceremonial post of LDP Vice President.

Komura is the chairman of the Japan-China Parliamentarians League. He would be in charge of the LDP's communications with the leadership of China for as long as the party is in opposition and lead Track II diplomacy should the party retake power.

A positive note? Possibly. More likely, however, is that the LDP will play a double game. In public it will push the Noda government to be more combative toward China. In private, Komura will be assuring his China contacts that the LDP is merely engaging in political theater in order to rewin control of the Diet -- and that relations between the two governments will be on a more even keel should the mismanagement of the relationship with China (wink, wink) lead to the DPJ losing power.

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