Thursday, July 16, 2009

Hanging Their Hats on A Small Peg

The sitting Liberal Democratic Party directorate is hanging tough and staying united against calls to replace party president and Prime Minister Asō Tarō with someone, anyone (the short list of favorites includes Masuzoe Yōichi, Ishiba Shigeru, Koike Yuriko and Noda Seiko) with a little more credibility and/or pizazz. This is not because the members of the central directorate hold secure Diet seats, making them impervious to the despairing cries of the party list seatholders or the representatives in swing districts. Indeed, rather than stolid indifference, an almost giggling nihilism may be in effect. Asō, by calling for an election in last weekend in August, glibly tossed away the LDP's last best hope in terms of scheduling, which would have been to hold the election during the summer Obon holiday weekend when many urban dwellers and young people are not in their usual voting districts. As for chairman of the LDP General Council Sasagawa Takashi, he is frequently held up as an example of certain electoral roadkill. Why should Sasagawa care whether anyone else goes down to defeat, when he's swimming in money and guaranteed to lose his seat, no matter how he may try to keep it?

If there is any rhyme or reason to what the LDP core leadership did, it is that they believe lightning will strike twice -- that the Tokyo Public Prosecutors Office will carry out arrests of members of Democratic Party of Japan leader Hatoyama Yukio's staff as a result of the investigation into irregularities in the accounts of his political organizations. Another "what, another arrest?" moment would lead to a collapse of the current general level of grudging acceptance of the DPJ as the presumptive majority party in the Diet, allowing the ruling LDP-Komeito coalition to eke out yet one more victory.

The LDP directorate may not be entirely daft in hanging their hats on this proposition. Top prosecutors are facing career Armageddon should the DPJ or a DPJ-led coalition take power. Approving the arrest of the political secretary of former DPJ leader Ozawa Ichirō, an act that forced Ozawa to resign as party leader, without having balancing arrest of an LDP functionary soon afterward to prove their impartiality, will be neither forgiven nor forgotten. Should the DPJ take over the government those who harassed Ozawa will likely have an unpleasant autumn, both in 2009 and in their careers.

Will the prosecutors pull the trigger? Will the media go along with a program of destruction of Hatoyama's image, if the allegations are not backed up with arrests?

T'is a long shot...but not entirely improbable.

We will see.

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