Noda backs down

I wrote on Wednesday that Noda Yoshihiko was prepared to stand against Ozawa Ichiro in the September DPJ leadership election.

It seems, however, that Mr. Noda’s own faction is reluctant to back him.

(As of Friday morning, Mr. Noda has announced that he will not be running against Mr. Ozawa next month. It seems that Mr. Ozawa will get his uncontested election to a third term after all.)

He met with the executives of the Noda group Thursday, who cautioned prudence and appealed for party unity. The Noda group has twenty-four members, a third of which are first-term Diet members, who appear unwilling to rebel against Mr. Ozawa. The result is that Mr. Noda may find it difficult to find the requisite twenty Diet members to endorse his candidacy, although the Maehara group may step in to provide the necessary support.

Whether there is or isn’t a contested DPJ leadership election at this point is irrelevant. In their tendency to speak loudly against Mr. Ozawa’s leadership only to back down from overtly challenging it, it seems that the DPJ’s young turks have revealed their cravenness. For all their bluster, none was willing to risk his career to present their arguments as a candidate for the leadership. Perhaps they shouldn’t be blamed: Mr. Ozawa’s position is unassailable.

But what this episode should take some air out of the suspicions that Maehara Seiji and his compatriots are in cahoots with certain LDP members and looking for their first opportunity to jump from the party. If they are unwilling to take the risk of going down to defeat in a party leadership election, why would they be willing to take the far riskier step of defecting from the party and striking out on their own?

The DPJ’s unity, it seems, is assured.

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