Amari calls for Aso

In the wake of Mori Yoshiro’s “endorsement” of Aso Taro on Sunday, Amari Akira, METI minister in the first Fukuda cabinet, gave a full-throated call on Mr. Aso’s behalf on the BS11 program “Inside Out.”

“In the event that the Fukuda cabinet’s approval rating falls beneath twenty percent,” he said, “calls for a reorganization of the leadership will come forth from LDP members insecure about an election. A consensus has been achieved within the party for that time: Secretary-General Aso Taro.”

Given that Mr. Amari is one of the conservatives close to Mr. Aso — he is one of the so-called NASA club, along with Nakagawa Shoichi (N), Mr. Aso (A), and Suga Yoshihide (S) — it is tempting to dismiss his remarks as fully expected and thus indicative of nothing new.

But it is telling that Mr. Amari followed immediately after Mr. Mori. Mr. Mori may have, whether he intended to or not, declared open season on Fukuda Yasuo. Note how Mr. Amari framed his remarks: he (and Mr. Aso himself?) is not content to wait until events unfold and an election is held. Considering that the cabinet approval rating is hovering in the mid-20s still — remind me why the prime minister reshuffled? — twenty percent is not particularly distant. Will Mr. Amari’s remarks be followed by a series of leaks to the press from anonymous LDP sources about disarray in the government and Mr. Fukuda’s inadequacies as leaders, in the hope that a whisper campaign can drive the approval rating down to Mr. Amari’s target?

What would the prime minister do in the face of such an onslaught? Would he capitulate and step down, or would he exercise his nuclear option and call a general election?

Last year Mr. Aso and Yosano Kaoru were rumored to have carried out a coup against Abe Shinzo. Are we about to see an actual Aso coup? Will September see another prime minister resign?

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