The LDP’s candidate surplus

Sato Yukari, the “assassin” denied the LDP’s nomination for Gifu-1, will receive the party’s endorsement to run in Tokyo-5, which includes Meguro ward and part of Setagaya ward. The district’s current representative, Kosugi Takashi, a former education minister, will be retiring at term’s end.

The LDP had considered endorsing Dr. Sato for other districts, but ultimately decided that her best chance is in an urban district.

All’s well that ends well, I suppose, but this episode illustrates one of the biggest problems facing the DPJ in its campaign for regime change. The LDP, for all its struggles and sagging popularity, is still able to field competent, attractive candidates — even candidates attractive in urban districts. The DPJ, meanwhile, is still unable to field candidates for every single-seat HR district, let alone competent, attractive candidates.

If the mood is overwhelming anti-LDP when the general election finally comes, the qualities of individual candidates may be less important, but even in that scenario, strong candidates with the three bans on their side could make the difference between falling short or winning enough seats to form a government.

As discussed by Ethan Scheiner, among others, the challenge for the DPJ is to win seats in prefectural assemblies, setting up a “farm system” so that when general elections are held it has a stable supply of experienced politicians upon which to draw.

In the meantime, the LDP is still able to draw able, young candidates with a desire for “reform,” candidates who might otherwise fit naturally in the DPJ. Of the many blows dealt by Mr. Koizumi to the DPJ, giving the LDP a veneer of reformist credibility (and raising the prospect of reforming the LDP from within) may be the worst, in that it has undoubtedly made it difficult for the DPJ to entice candidates like Dr. Sato into the DPJ. The LDP remains the party to join if one wants to “make a difference.”

Of course, Mr. Koizumi’s successors are doing the best they can to make the party less attractive.

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