Koike fever?

Within days of Mori Yoshiro’s calling the prospect of Korike Yuriko, former defense minister, a “joke,” Sankei writes that “Koike fever” is taking hold — even though Ms. Koike claims to share Mr. Mori’s assessment of a Koike candidacy.

The basis for this “fever” is unclear to me.

The examples cited by Sankei? A long speech to a meeting of the LDP young turks, Nakagawa Hidenao’s calling her “a new leader who will be responsible for Japan’s future” on a visit to China in March, her participation in Mr. Koizumi’s new study group, and Koizumian political instincts.

All well and good, but this strikes me as a thin foundation for declaring that Ms. Koike is in a position to seize the LDP leadership. Does she in fact have any of the support that would make her a viable candidate in a post-Fukuda party race? Being an able politician is not necessarily a criterion for being elected as head of the LDP, and Ms. Koike’s “flexibility,” which led her to migrate from party to party over the course of the 1990s before ending up in the LDP and Mr. Koizumi’s cabinet, surely is less of an asset when it comes to vying for the LDP leadership.

Does she have the support of the party’s prefectural chapters, which gave not inconsiderable support to Aso Taro in September 2007 — and which Mr. Aso has courted assiduously since the last LDP leadership election?

Does she have the support of any LDP faction, not least the biggest one, and the LDP’s kingpins more generally? The “endorsement” of Nakagawa Hidenao is undoubtedly helpful, but surely Mr. Mori’s put-down outweighs his Machimura faction comrade’s praise (stunning considering that Ms. Koike is a member of the Machimura faction). Meanwhile, the manner in which she was chased out of the Defense Ministry as the party’s leaders closed ranks to defend Moriya Takemasa suggests that she is short on allies in the highest councils of the LDP, not least because she’s a woman.

I would welcome her candidacy; she would certainly be an improvement (and a better choice than Mr. Aso). But I must (sadly) agree with Mr. Mori: her prospects are a joke. She will not be elected as head of the LDP as it exists today. She might find a way to the premiership if Mr. Koizumi leads his followers out of the LDP and pushes Ms. Koike forward as his new party’s candidate, but for now I feel confident saying that she will not be Mr. Fukuda’s successor as LDP president and prime minister.

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