The shape of the realignment to come?

Nakagawa Shoichi, former LDP Policy Affairs Research Council chairman, was recently interviewed in the Kyodo Weekly on the subject of his new study group.

Not surprisingly, the “True Conservative Policy Research Group” is, according to Mr. Nakagawa, dedicated to keeping the flame of the Abe revolution alive.

In explaining what true conservatism is, he said, “Japan stands at a crossroads — will it continue down the road to ruin, or will it go down the road of revival? The LDP has defended Japan’s good tradition and culture, and improved and reformed that which should be reformed. If this type of conservatism does not press forward, the support for the true conservative class will become unreliable.”

He continued: “Restoring vitality to the regions, and at the national level, reconstructing national security, public order, education and the social security systems. We must continue to struggle with constitution revision, reform of the public service system, and collective self-defense, the problems with which the former Abe administration grappled.”

None of this is that surprising or revealing. What is revealing, however, is what Mr. Nakagawa says about the group’s political aims. For the moment, Mr. Nakagawa supports Prime Minister Fukuda. He even claims that he voted for him in September. But he also hinted that he and his coterie are more concerned about policy than personality. And when asked whether he would join independent conservative Hiranuma Takeo’s new party, he declined to answer — and quoted Hiranuma as talking about how the DPJ “is not monolithic, it is essential to build bridges, and this is our self-imposed mission.”

I remain skeptical of the idea that Mr. Nakagawa and his comrades will leave the LDP, now that the revisionists are finally in the party’s mainstream. It is their party now. What might happen in the aftermath of the next general election — except in the unlikely event that the government retains its supermajority — is a bid by the ideologues to expel those who aren’t in sync with their principles. Their biggest rival is now the Kochikai, which is set to reemerge this year from a merger between the Koga and Tanigaki factions, in the process unseating the Tsushima faction as the party’s second largest. The next LDP presidential election, which will presumably follow a general election disappointment or defeat, will be a brutal fight for dominance over the party. If the LDP still holds a majority (judged by Koga Makoto, LDP election strategist, to be “difficult”) the conservatives will presumably focus on enticing the DPJ’s conservatives into the party to bolster both the conservative position within the party and the LDP’s position in the Diet.

And if the LDP goes into opposition for the second time in its history? Harder to say, because victory would presumably serve as an excellent adhesive for the DPJ, keeping the conservatives from joining with their counterparts in the LDP. Would the LDP survive opposition in one piece?

No wonder former Prime Minister Mori and other party elders want to postpone a general election for as long as possible.

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