As MTC notes in a brief but astute post, the meaningful division within the LDP — aside from urban-rural differences — is not along factional lines but along ideological lines (a division that to some extent follows generational lines). Except that there is little contest as to who holds the upper hand in the party: on social and foreign policy questions, the taka-ha (hawks) is in control.
The pragmatic Mr. Fukuda’s surprising climb up the greasy pole notwithstanding, the LDP is increasingly an ideologically coherent party. As Richard Samuels and J. Patrick Boyd wrote in the monograph discussed in this post, the relegation of conservative ideologues to the LDP’s anti-mainstream positions for the duration of the cold war (with few exceptions) has collapsed since the cold war’s end, meaning that ideologically speaking, Mr. Fukuda and his hato-ha beliefs are actually anti-mainstream. He is only ascending to power today by virtue of a political crisis that has left the LDP paralyzed and scared, prompting the LDP’s more moderate elders to turn to one of their own. As MTC notes, the hawkish youngsters did not feel the same, and gave Mr. Aso a surprisingly high tally in Sunday’s presidential vote.
Komori Yoshihisa today provides another reminder that the ideologues and their allies in the media will not be forgiving of “lapses” by Mr. Fukuda. Mr. Komori digs up a record of a meeting between Mr. Fukuda and the abductee families after Mr. Koizumi’s September 2002 visit to Pyongyang, when Mr. Fukuda was chief cabinet secretary, in which Mr. Fukuda apparently acted callous to the families. Just because Mr. Abe, an exemplary member of the young hawks, crashed and burned doesn’t mean that the ideologues are marginalized — which means that the abductions issue, their pet issue, will not be abandoned without a fight.
How much slack will the restive ideologues give the pragmatic, flexible prime minister?