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Kurimoto's Opinion

WHEN IS THE LDP GOING TO SPLIT?

by Shin-ichiro Kurimoto

Member of the House of Representatives
Economic Anthropologist
Professor Tokyo University of Agriculture

It is my conviction that the LDP will split in not so distant a future, as I have projected in my recent books, "Study On The LDP" (original title "Jiminto-No-Kenkyu", pub. by Kobunsha) and "Secrets and Structure of Modern Politics" (original title "Gendaiseiji-No-Himitsu-To-Kozo", pub. by Toyo Keizai Shinposha). My reasoning is as follows:
  1. Currently, vigorous debates are going on between various factions of the LDP over their policies . Such an open thrust and parry of the members has never taken place in the party's history. When there was a necessity for any policy debate in the party, it was usually done in the form of its heavyweights' personal opinions or ideas, and there was never an organizational encouragement for such across-the-board discussions as we see these days. But things seem quite different this time, for the core groups of the Kato and Yamazaki factions are in great reaction against Obuchi, who is rather puffed up with his success in forming an all-powerful tripartite coalition government with the LDP, Liberal Party and Komei Party (named "Ji-ji-ko", taking the Japanese initials of the parties). Chances are great that those MPs who have entered the second Obuchi cabinet from these two rebellious factions will trigger off splinters in them. Particularly, it is common knowledge that Takashi Fukaya of the Yamazaki faction, now Minister of Trade and Industry, is actually a Nonaka faction member in disguise.
    Katsuhiko Shirakawa, a leading figure of the Kato faction, even publicly declares that the Ji-ji-ko coalition government is unconstitutional. And more than twenty members of the faction--including Kensaku Morita, an actor-turned-politician--have joined Shirakawa. We have never seen LDP factions being at variance with each other to that degree.
  2. The internal rifts of the LDP are also reflected in the strong opposition of the historically pro-LDP religious groups--like Rishokoseikai and Bushogonenkai--against the present administration. Although few people are aware of it, the LDP candidates in the urban electorates would have had extremely tough games in the past elections without the support of these groups, particularly of their female voters. That is, the current policy debates within the LDP will affect its members' fate in the coming elections. This is another phenomenon that we have not seen taking place for a long time. The reason why the LDP has managed to get around splitting up was simply that, fearing a possible loss of supporters' confidence in them, LDP members in the past chose to "be prudent" or "think twice" before they used a controversy as a means of appealing to their voters.
    If this situation remains, there is going to be a decisive change in our political map. I will not be surprised if those candidates in the urban electorates who have strongly supported the Ji-ji-ko coalition, and those who stubbornly supported Akashi in the past gubernatorial election of Tokyo suffer a crushing defeat in the coming elections. The LDP won 239 seats out of 500 in the last general election, but 19 of those 239 seats were won sort of by fluke in the Tokyo electorates. Without the benefit of luck, the LDP would have deserved only 12 or 13 seats. And they would be very lucky if they could capture 10 this time. The Komei Party, on the other hand, can expect to get no more that 3 or 4 seats in the their proportional representation electorates. Under such circumstances, who on earth could resist the temptation to form a new conservative party to cater to these awaken urban voters? But you should not expect this to happen until just before the coming election.
  3. A Democratic Party led by Yukio Hatoyama is many times stronger than the one led by his colleague, Naoto Kan. A good many highly educated voters in the urban electorates have long disregarded Kan as a hypocrite. Hatoyama will be able not only to recover their votes which had fled to the Communist Party (JCP) or Social-Democratic Party, but even to win some of the conservative votes as well. I think it quite significant that Hatoyama with such a magnetizing power advocates policy decisions to be made independently of the United States, or for that matter, of the international financial captains; because it hints the probability of his alliance with Ko-ichi Kato, who strikes similar notes on that issue. Of course, I am well aware that the situation has presented only a common ground for hithertofore exotic alliances.

We should perceive these three conditions given above as something that we have never encountered in the past. Particularly, the second point above will have the most critical impact on the present LDP mainstream,

When Ichiro Ozawa splintered the LDP some years ago, great expectations were entertained of him as the boss of the reformists, as well as the one who would be able to look after them in elections. In that exaltation, there were cases in which even secretaries to some municipal assemblymen ran for the general election at that time and became MPs. It naturally resulted in a fission of the LDP. Since then, most of the incumbents of Ozawa's party at that time, however, have returned, in some way or other, to their old haunt, the LDP. The trickle has not come to a complete halt yet, but its pace has been slowed considerably since Hatoyama became the party chief.

All these changes of politicians' party labels are for the sake of elections, nothing else. Japanese politics is hardly driven by policies and ideas. 90% of the time, what's fueling it is speculations and anticipations towards upcoming elections. Political ideas and policy debates play a far less significant role.

The lively debates now going on in the political circles signify that there has occurred a situation in which the Japanese politics, given a momentum of an election, can be split and reorganized into two groups: one will be subservient to international financial capitains, and the other will advocate a more independent stance. My forecast is that the next general election will not take place until the summer or autumn of the year 2000; because the Obuchi Administration will do everything they can to tide over the Okinawa Summit scheduled for June. And I anticipate that it will be carried out all right, since he can expect to receive an all-out support from the United States, which evidently wishes to impress the world that Japan is one of its proteges. So I'm afraid that the anticipated split of the LDP may not take place before the election.

Apart from the election, another decisive factor is how far and fast Kato and Yamazaki will go in their preparations for an alliance. I guess that Hatoyama is prepared to accept a union with them at any time, whereas Kato and Yamazaki may have difficulties splintering off right away in view of the fact that they were mainstays of the LDP until recently.

The Dietmen in general have a surprisingly keen sense of smell for approaching elections, and they may be compared to extremely efficient weather vanes which respond to wind changes.

My scenario of how things may be moving towards next year's election looks like this. The LDP may not be able to expect support from Takeshita as before. After Clinton, there will be no Gore Administration, which the financial captains have expected to use as a puppet. A Republican Administration to be led by Bush Junior will be a more likely choice. The speculative money that has flowed into the Japanese markets from the United States for profit taking will have flighted to Europe by then. Katsuhiko Shirakawa, who has questioned the constitutionality of the Ji-ji-ko coalition, will have gained more political strength. Under such circumstances, an extra push like Makiko Tanaka's participation in the splinter force would cause the LDP to split up. Except for the Tanaka issue, I am quite confident that my scenario will become a reality.

(End)

Translation by Triking

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