The outlook is not brilliant for Mr. Aso. As his ally, Hatoyama Kunio, the justice minister, said, “It’s extremely tough. Each faction has one after the other come forward to support Mr. Fukuda. But is the number of factions good enough to decide the matter?” It seems that Mr. Aso will have no choice but to launch an “insurgency” in the regions in the hope of highlighting the division in the party between Tokyo and the prefectures and presenting himself as the man who is best prepared to address the concerns of the prefectural party chapters.
Mr. Aso has already begun to take this tack. Asahi reports that at the press conference scheduled for this afternoon he will “stress the regions.”
But even that may not be enough. I don’t think the LDP is looking to Mr. Fukuda to win a general election, so even if Mr. Aso can convincingly present himself as someone who can appeal to voters around the country, it may not matter. He is a divisive figure at a time that the party elders are craving stability and unity.
The opposition might be looking for a snap election — the DPJ, SDPJ, and PNP have criticized the rush to support Mr. Fukuda as symbolic of the return of old-style LDP faction rule — but I think the LDP is just trying to get through the campaign and the Diet session in one piece. An interesting question is what Mr. Aso will do if and when he loses this campaign. Will he be resentful, and will he take it out on the LDP?