In this post, for example, I wrote, “…If the conservatives retake control of the LDP under Mr. Aso and reunite with Mr. Hiranuma, that alliance could prove fatal for the LDP, as the readmission of Mr. Hiranuma and the other postal rebels could lead Mr. Koizumi and his followers out of the party, perhaps prompting liberals unconnected to Mr. Koizumi to leave too and drift towards the DPJ.”
It seems that it may not even take Hiranuma Takeo’s return into the party for Mr. Aso’s election to be the catalyst for an exodus of reformers from the LDP.
The immediate catalyst instead is Koizumi Junichiro’s decision to not run for reelection and let his 27-year-old (my near contemporary) son Shinjiro run in his stead.
As MTC notes, with Mr. Koizumi goes the last thread connecting his reformist followers with the party. Those reformists were undoubtedly aware that they had no place in Aso Taro’s LDP; as Yamauchi Koichi wrote, Mr. Aso’s new cabinet is purged of members of Nakagawa Hidenao’s “rising tide” school. Instead there is an assortment of politicians looking to prime the pump a bit more, with Yosano Kaoru included in the mix to lend an air of responsibility to the proceedings. (I wonder why he is willing to participate in the farce, if he’s serious about what he says about the need for fiscal retrenchment.)
The question now is whether Mr. Koizumi’s followers leave before or after a general election. Why they would stay around to campaign under Mr. Aso’s standard is beyond me. I do not expect them to join with Ozawa Ichiro’s DPJ, which undoubtedly they see as little better (cf. Nakagawa Hidenao’s posts on the DPJ). Will we see a three-way general election, with a Koizumian New Party the wild card?
Whatever the outcome, the LDP appears to be on the road to becoming a rump party comprised of an alliance between nationalist hawks and party stalwarts longing to break open the bank.
Even in his retirement, Mr. Koizumi retains his flare for the dramatic, in the process wrecking Mr. Aso’s long-awaited opening night.