Mr. Fukuda evidently has the support of seventy percent of the 387 Diet members and leads in at least twenty-three prefectures.
Mr. Aso simply overplayed his hand, as the controversial article in this week’s Shukan Gendai — which discusses Aso’s “coup” and his overweening ambition to be prime minister — makes clear, and whatever concerns the prefectural chapters have about Mr. Fukuda’s ascending to the premiership on the back of factional support, those concerns do not seem to be significant enough to lead them to buck the parliamentary LDP.
And so Mr. Fukuda will step into the leadership of a broken party, facing circumstances not unlike his father’s ascendancy in 1976. Fukuda Takeo took over the LDP following the Lockheed scandal that consumed Tanaka Kakuei and in the wake of the LDP’s worst House of Representatives election since the LDP formed, in which official LDP candidates failed to take a majority (the LDP was only able to hold a majority by virtue of conservative independents who ran without the LDP’s endorsement and joined the party after being elected). One of the elder Fukuda’s first acts as prime minister was to create a headquarters for executing party reform of which he was the head. The headquarters ultimately introduced a primary system for the election of party leaders open to all party members.
Fukuda the younger will not have it as easy as his father: there is no magic bullet to solve the LDP’s problems, because there seems to be no easy way to reconcile the party’s rural past with an urban present and future, all while holding together a coalition with Komeito and locking horns with an invigorated DPJ.
Perhaps not surprisingly, he’s giving few hints as to how he plans to deal with these problems. But I suspect that once in place he could surprise everyone, being a tough, crafty competitor who makes life difficult for rivals and enemies within and without the LDP.