Noda to step in front of the Ozawa train

After months of deliberation, one of the DPJ’s young turks opposed to the leadership of Ozawa Ichiro has indicated that he is prepared to step forward to run against Mr. Ozawa in next month’s leadership election.

Noda Yoshihiko, head of a small DPJ faction close with Maehara Seiji’s group and the chairman of the DPJ’s public relations committee, has indicated that he is finalizing plans to challenge Mr. Ozawa in his bid for a third term as DPJ president.

Even with Mr. Noda’s candidacy, the outcome of the election is not in doubt. Mr. Ozawa appears to have the support of more than half the party’s Diet members, and also enjoys considerable support among the party’s local chapters and the party’s nominees for the next general election (who also have a vote in the election).

The DPJ leadership has its patsy: Mr. Noda will spare the party the “embarrassment” of an uncontested leadership election. (The LDP members who have hammered on this point surely deserve some credit for making an issue of the perceived lack of democracy within the DPJ.) Mr. Noda’s late announcement is truly the best possible outcome for the DPJ. By waiting this long to step forward, Mr. Noda has spared the party of a summer of DPJ civil war, which would have undoubtedly dominated the political headlines and undermined the party’s public image. Given that the party’s ruling troika is thinking more about the possibility of an autumn general election than the leadership election, the leadership election will be largely perfunctory.

Mr. Noda — renowned, at least according to his Japanese Wikipedia entry, as the party’s best orator (he reportedly spoke for twelve hours straight outside Tsudanuma station in Chiba in his first campaign for the lower house) — will likely suffer little from having been defeated by Mr. Ozawa, and will be in a position to run again in a future party election. And the party’s young turks now have their candidate who can vent their grievances about Mr. Ozawa’s leadership.

They better hurry: the election is a month away.

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