Not long after I wrote that post, however, it became clear that the field would expand before long, in large part because younger LDP members like Yamauchi Koichi are unhappy with their choices.
As a result, Ishiba Shigeru (51), the former defense minister, Yamamoto Ichita (50), the rockin’ upper house member from Gunma, and possibly Tanahashi Yasufumi (45), an LDP young turk, have each declared their intention to contest the Sept. 22 election.
It is unclear which among them will be able to muster the twenty endorsements necessary to run.
The bigger the field, the greater the chance of a surprise, especially since all forty-seven prefectural chapters will be holding elections to determine how to cast their three votes. At the very least, it raises the likelihood of a runoff election should no candidate receive a majority in the first round of voting. (For a look at the implications of the LDP’s shift to popular, “open” voting, read this post by Jun Okumura.)
But looking at the shape of the field, the absence of another conservative from the True Conservative Policy Research Group is telling. The conservatives behind Mr. Aso are remarkably disciplined compared to their ideological rivals. Considering the incredible amount of disunity in Japanese political organizations (a trait, I should note, that is by no means unique to Japanese organizations), the lack of public disharmony among the LDP’s conservatives is nothing short of remarkable. It could well make the difference in the outcome of the presidential election.