Friday, July 28, 2017

Sussing Out Abe's Next Move

Yesterday's resignation of Democratic Party leader Renho only days after a major DP victory in the Sendai mayoral election, together with the resignation of Cabinet-support sapping Inada Tomomi as Minister of Defense opens up to Prime Minister Abe Shinzo an opportunity to initiate what 24 hours ago would have been considered political suicide: dissolve the Diet and call a House of Representatives election. Indeed, this decision may already have been made -- it certainly makes the Inada resignation more comprehensible ("Why now? She is about to be let go in the Cabinet reshuffle!" was a natural, immediate reaction to yesterday's announcement).

As the results of the July 2 Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly elections have shown, the LDP's recent dominance has been all about the absence of a centrist opposition with a clear pathway to victory. Offer a ruthless alternative, one that leaps over the structural impediments and clientalism designed to return the LDP to power time after time, and the resentment of the voters will lift you to victory. Koike Yuriko, with her amazing ability to tear away the Komeito from its coalition with the LDP at the same time as dog whistling to the Tamogami Right (too quickly forgotten is her calculated dissing of the South Koreans) provided Tokyo voters with just such an alternative.

The obvious decision for Abe, who faces declining poll numbers and obvious factional maneuvering against him, is dissolve the Diet, proclaiming, "I am asking for the judgment of my performance from the voters" or something like that. With the DP leaderless and no national Koike party as yet, the chances are fairly good that Abe's LDP will march to another victory under his command. Perhaps one which fails to return a Constitution revision-capable 2/3rds majority in the House of Representatives for the ruling coalition -- but still a simple LDP majority (take that, Komeito!) in the lower house.

At least, that's the way it looks.

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