Speaking in Utsunomiya, Mr. Ibuki said, “If the LDP wins, the DPJ will break. If the DPJ wins, in the LDP people who cannot persevere will spill out.”
There are plenty of public signs of the gathering storm within the LDP, but if the president and secretary-general of the party feel compelled to take their fears for the party’s future public, then the situation must be worse than even press reports suggest. Given the barely concealed vitriol of the conservatives, who seem to feel that Mr. Fukuda has taken their birthright — control of the party for which they and their ideological predecessors yearned for decades — I don’t doubt it.
But Mr. Ibuki is right: I don’t expect any movement until after the election. But he’s wrong about the winner staying united, the loser dividing. What will count as a victory for the LDP? retaining the supermajority? Best take out the carving knives now. A simple majority for the LDP, without Komeito? A simple majority for the government, but only with Komeito’s help? Undoubtedly different actors within the LDP will have their own ideas about what constitutes a win for the LDP in a general election. I expect that Nakagawa Shoichi and the other ideologues will do their best to spin just about any outcome as a defeat, giving them due cause to reassert control over the LDP, and push out their dovish rivals, with a mitigating factor being a strong election performance by the doves that bolsters their numbers within the party. Barring that, the LDP will be rocked by just about any outcome short of the miraculous retention of the supermajority.
As for the DPJ, if it loses — although, again, there is a question about the definition of what constitutes a win for the DPJ — the party will have to confront the question of who will replace Ozawa Ichiro. As revealed back in November, there isn’t an obvious replacement, meaning that when Mr. Ozawa goes, there’s bound to be chaos within the DPJ as the party’s proto-factions search for a new compromise leader who can assuage all factions or purge the party’s conservatives, sending them into the arms of the LDP.