While it still looks as if Aso Taro will claim the prize, it appears that his election will not go nearly as smoothly as Mr. Ozawa’s.
Mainichi reports that Koike Yuriko has expressed her desire to run, and has begun making preparations for a campaign, running as the candidate of Koizumi and Nakagawa (Hidenao).
Given the latter’s increasing isolation within the LDP, I wonder whether Ms. Koike’s prospects are realistic.
Mr. Aso simply has to build upon his strong showing last September to win; Ms. Koike has to build a national organization to compete with Mr. Aso from scratch. Recall that Mr. Aso managed to win 197 votes of a total 529 votes in last year’s election, putting him 68 short of victory. He won 65 of 141 prefectural chapter votes, a number he will likely increase as a result of his travels around the country. He surprisingly received 132 Diet member votes last year — surprising because it showed the extent to which faction members bucked their leaders. A similar trend could redound to Ms. Koike’s favor this year, but it is unlikely that there are enough Koizumians to push Ms. Koike over the top. Ms. Koike also lacks the support of the Mori Yoshiro, the punative head of her own faction, the Machimura faction. Mr. Mori will undoubtedly lean heavily on faction members to support Mr. Aso, if they aren’t already doing so.
But if Mr. Nakagawa backs Ms. Koike anyway, this election campaign will likely mean the end of the Machimura faction.
Surely Mr. Nakagawa is aware of the aforementioned figures about Mr. Aso’s performance. Surely he knows how difficult it will be to upset Mr. Aso, who has used the past year to prepare systematically for this coming election.
Perhaps Ms. Koike’s campaign is intended as a pretext for the departure of Mr. Nakagawa and his followers from the LDP entirely, a last stand before bolting. Mr. Aso will win, only to find his party shrinking beneath his feet.
Far-fetched perhaps, but less and less far-fetched every day.