Despite demands form Maehara Seiji and his fellow young turks that the DPJ use the leadership election to debate the party’s manifesto, not one of them as been willing to sacrifice himself in order to force said debate.
Should the DPJ worry about Mr. Ozawa’s being reelected uncontested? Hatoyama Yukio, the party’s secretary-general, isn’t concerned about the possibility of an uncontested election.
However, Nakagawa Hidenao and Yamauchi Koichi, standard bearer of the LDP’s reformers and first-term Koizumi Kid respectively, both think that an uncontested DPJ election is a sign of a serious deficiency in the DPJ (and presumably an opportunity for the LDP to exploit in a general election campaign). Both comment on an article in the Tokyo Shimbun by Sasaki Takeshi, a professor at Gakushuin, in which he criticizes the idea of an uncontested party election. To Professor Sasaki (and Messrs. Nakagawa and Yamauchi), party elections play an important role in calibrating the party’s public presence in advance of an election.
It seems to me that the LDP’s reformists are desperate to find a way to halt the DPJ’s gains. Naturally both men — especially Mr. Yamauchi, who is especially vulnerable in the next general election — need to recast the DPJ as a party of reaction and the LDP as the party of reform without sanctuaries. Mr. Yamauchi uses this discussion to remind readers of his participation in an study group calling for reforms to the LDP’s election process. Party elections, he says, should be manifesto elections.
Why? Why must party leaders be elected on the basis of their platforms, as opposed to other reasons (political acumen, charisma, managerial competence, etc.)? A party election is not a primary, a lead-in to a general election. It is an internal administrative matter that is about more than just the party’s platform. The alternative to “manifesto elections” is not dictatorship — both the LDP and the DPJ have organs for debating policy questions.
The enthusiasm with which the last of the Koizumians have seized upon the DPJ’s perceived failings is a sign of just how vulnerable their position in the LDP is. Mr. Nakagawa believes that the LDP has changed “from the LDP that protects vested interests” to the “reform LDP that destroys vested interests.” Will the voters believe that the LDP has followed through on this claim in the years since Koizumi Junichiro left office? More importantly, are they satisfied with the idea of “destroying vested interests,” or do they desire a more constructive approach to Japan’s problems?
As I’ve argued before, I have a hard time believing, in light of the events of the three years since the 2005 general election, that voters will be casting their votes on the basis of the DPJ’s fitness to govern.