The report suggests that there was a “gap” between the priorities of the party and the people, which was expressed not just in the party’s responses to the pensions scandal, political corruption, ministerial indiscretion, and the growing inequality between urban and rural Japan, but even in its slogan — the report compares the DPJ’s “living is number one” slogan to Mr. Abe’s pet phrases, “beautiful country” and “leaving the postwar regime behind.”
This analysis is largely unexceptional, although I think any discussion of why the LDP lost has to look at the party’s long-term prospects post-Koizumi and struggle to answer the question of what kind of party the LDP should become now. This discussion is even more imperative now that the voters have effectively rejected Mr. Abe’s solution — a starkly ideological party run by a hard core of ideologues that will run the country in a top-down fashion, outlining a vision and expecting the people to follow behind. Mr. Tanabe, former LDP secretary-general, has criticized Prime Minister Abe on precisely these grounds, suggesting that he and his “cabinet of friends” has been completely out of control and unaccountable.
Whether the new cabinet will be any more accountable remains to be seen. The press continues to talk up Mr. Mori’s favorites, Fukuda Yasuo and Tanigaki Sadakazu — this Sankei piece considers them both in a discussion of who will be the next cabinet’s “key man” — but any discussion of their entrance into their cabinet seems to be entirely driven by Mr. Mori, and it’s not exactly clear that the prime minister will be taking his predecessor’s advice. How and to whom the new cabinet will be accountable to anyone other than Mr. Abe is anyone’s guess, and it’s exceedingly clear that being accountable to Mr. Abe is insufficient, given that he is only slightly less tolerant of failure on his watch than his buddy George.
So figuring out why the LDP lost the election is only a start: the next step is to figure out how to restructure the party to provide balance and accountability, and to ensure that in the course of policy making the interests and needs of the people are not subordinated to cloud-cuckoo-land ideals and slogans. Whether the party is capable of that is unclear, although it’s not like the party rank-and-file isn’t aware of the problem. Indeed, for me one of the most revealing moments of the campaign was when Tamura Kohei, the incumbent candidate in Kochi prefecture who ultimately lost, castigated the prime minister for his “beautiful country” rhetoric.