A new phase in the battle to unseat Abe

Jiji and Mainichi report today on the creation of an anti-Abe “study group” composed of eight members from the Yamasaki, Tanigaki, and Tsushima factions, some of whom have already gone public with criticism of the prime minister.

The ringleader is former Education Minister Kosaka Kenji of the Tsushima faction, who was education minister in the final Koizumi cabinet, and the group also includes Mihara Asahiko, Gotoda Masuzumi, Tokai Kisaburo, Sonoda Hiroyuki, Yamamoto Koichi, Noda Takeshi, and Yosano Kaoru. It is a relatively older group, with thirty-eight-year-old Gotoda being roughly twenty years younger than Tokai, the next youngest member.

Mainichi reports that they desire above all a change of policy, and criticize Prime Minister Abe’s insistence that the appropriate response to last month’s defeat is simply to redouble his efforts in implementing his reform agenda (insofar as it exists). Interestingly, the group is echoing the DPJ’s campaign rhetoric, questioning the excessive “market fundamentalism” of the Koizumi reforms.

The question is whether this effort will attract the support of LDP heavyweights, and whether it is capable of serving as the support base for an Abe successor. At present, I doubt that this small group will have much impact. But its creation is indicative of the low-intensity conflict underway within the LDP, and if Kosaka and company can convince silent sympathizers to rally to their banner, they might be able to put more pressure on the prime minister to resign. The key will be support, publicly and in great numbers.

The prime minister, meanwhile, reminded everyone of his inability to face reality by brushing off questions about criticism from within the LDP. According to Asahi, he told reporters, “To the last, I believe that the LDP is a party that is uniting and working together.”

Yes, Mr. Prime Minister, united in search of a candidate who will be able to replace you.

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