Friday, July 09, 2004

New expectations, now lower than ever...

This morning's paper has the latest desperate redefinition of non-defeat from the LDP anonymice. According to sources, Junichiro Koizumi will continue to serve as party leader and prime minister even if the LDP manages to win just 44 seats. LDP leader in the House of Councillors Mikio Aoki is also rapidly backing away from the line of "51 seats or bust" he drew only a week ago. “I am not the one who will be deciding whether or not we are in the post-Koizumi era,” he says.

The brighter minds within the LDP are discovering the main problem with setting up a line dividing victory from defeat: the LDP lacks a consensus Plan B candidate ready to step in should Koizumi be forced to commit political seppuku for failing to meet the party's performance goals. The main pretender to the post of party president and prime minister, Takeo Hiranuma, lacks the full backing of the party. Other candidates often mentioned as potential Koizumi successors--former chief cabinet secretary Yasuo Fukuda, former home affairs minister Tarō Aso and finance minister Sadakazu Tanigaki--are all either laboring under a cloud (Fukuda, who had to resign as chief cabinet minister because of his having been caught with his pants down in the pension non-payment scandal) or are too ridiculous to be taken seriously (Tanigaki, who is a sweet-natured flake. His status as one of the LDP's “leaders of tomorrow” never fails to amaze me). As for a new Cabinet, no one even has a clue even about the criteria the party might use to select a new lineup.

The lack of serious preparations for a post-Koizumi succession highlights one the LDP's campaign weaknesses: a too-brief roster of significant party luminaries. After Koizumi, Aoki, LDP secretary-general Shinzō Abe and minister for the environment Yuriko Koike (an Arabic-speaking former television news anchor), the party has few stars capable of whipping up any enthusiasm among the voters. The rest of the party is either too decrepit, too abrasive or too young to defend the party's record in a convincing fashion.

The stark contrast between the LDP's thin lineup at the top and the Democratic Party's deep bench of knowledgeable, telegenic leaders is no accident. It is not due to "bright policies attracting bright people" or whatever other nonsense activists might be peddling. The bright lights of the DPJ are the bright lights of the LDP, or at least they would have been had Ichiro Ozawa not bolted in the 1990s taking an entire generation with him into the political wilderness.

The latest poll figures on the proportional vote:

DPJ 24%
LDP 22%
Komeitō * 6%
Communists * 3%
Socialists 2%

* Komeitō and Communist Party supporters lie to pollsters about their voting intentions in order help their parties perform better than expected on election day.

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