Waiting for autumn

As the temperature in the debate over the temporary gasoline tax lowers and the parties prepare to negotiate, it seems increasingly likely that Prime Minister Fukuda will succeed in pushing a general election until “after the G8 summit.”

Mr. Ozawa admitted as much Thursday in a speech at his annual political workshop. He declared that the party is shifting to a “long-term” strategy that prioritizes the preservation of the party’s “centripetal force.”

I’ve been skeptical of the DPJ’s post-July push for a rapid election, which seemed to ignore the lack of electoral preparedness readily acknowledged even by Mr. Ozawa himself. This strategy rested on the idea that the DPJ will win a general election largely on the basis of outrage at the LDP. It’s possible that after years of policy failures the public might finally be outraged enough at the LDP to vote it out of power, but the DPJ should not base its strategy on this idea. It cannot keep assuming that the LDP will make mistakes that make the job of campaigning easier.

With the horizon for a general election lengthening, perhaps the DPJ will finally get around to crafting a new critique of the government that can carry it through the Diet session and general election campaign. And Mr. Ozawa can spend plenty of time campaigning in the country — he’ll be taking another tour of the regions this month.

Mr. Fukuda may have bought himself some time to reverse some of the decline in his popularity and begin moving an agenda once the budget is implemented, but somehow even with his wiseman Yosano and his guardian Mori, Mr. Fukuda will not have it easy. (And I suspect that the longer the time to an election, the greater the likelihood that Mr. Fukuda’s rivals within the LDP will work to undermine his government.)

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