To that end, Mr. Tanigaki recently met with Ijima Isao, former confidante of former prime minister Koizumi, who declared that unless Mr. Koizumi puts his hat back into the ring, Mr. Mr. Tanigaki is the only leader for the “conservative mainstream” at present. (I’m not sure whether it’s still plausible to call the Kochikai mainstream within the LDP, in light of the inexorable rise of the revisionists over the past fifteen years.)
That doesn’t strike me as the most ringing endorsement of Mr. Tanigaki, and I suspect that if the much-discussed realignment ever comes about, Mr. Tanigaki will be muscled out of the way by either Mr. Koizumi or somehow else who combines both popular appeal and an agenda that balances reform and attentiveness to public concerns about the consequences of reform. Masuzoe Yoichi, for example, could very easily step into this role given both his crusading reformism (often directed at the bureaucracy) and his ability to empathize with the frustrations of the Japanese people when it comes to the failings of the health and welfare systems.
One thing seems clear, however. The new Kochikai will not slump back into the role of being the voice of the bureaucracy in the LDP. (Indeed, looking at the background of LDP Diet members, the pipeline from bureaucracy to backbencher appears to have been severed. The career politicians won.) If Mr. Tanigaki is serious about echoing the DPJ and putting lifestyle concerns first, his new faction will necessarily find itself battling the Japanese bureaucracy, which bears much of the blame for the state’s indifference to the concerns of Japanese citizens.
Meanwhile, the true size of the resurrected faction is in doubt, thanks to the subterranean, cross-factional support for the candidacy of Aso Taro for the party presidency. The Aso movement, which presumably incorporates Nakagawa Shoichi’s “true conservatives,” is far larger than Mr. Aso’s faction, and will likely dwarf the new Kochikai. I remain convinced that the LDP remains for the taking of the ideologues, regardless of whether Mr. Aso or one of his comrades is the standard bearer.