In the meantime, the latest crisis facing the prime minister is whether the LDP should move up the date of the LDP presidential election scheduled for September, which would give Asō’s opponents a chance to replace him.
Yamamoto Taku, an LDP lower house member, has received eighty-two signatures on his petition calling for rescheduling the party election, and another twenty-six LDP members have voiced their agreement orally. As with each of these crises (or “infections”), senior government and party officials have given their opinion on the matter. Kawamura Takeo, the chief cabinet secretary, rejected the idea outright and warned that it would undermine the government and the LDP. Abe Shinzō, now something of an expert on the impact of cascading crises within the LDP, came to the prime minister’s defense too, suggesting that if the LDP were to change leaders again, the public would (rightly, I think) receive it as an act of deception on the part of the LDP. Masuzoe Yoichi, the independent-minded health, welfare, and labor minister, refused to say no to an early leadership election, saying that it is the party’s decision to make (perhaps a sign of Masuzoe’s intentions?).
It is unlikely that this debate will change the prime minister’s mind one way or another, but with each passing day, with each broadside, the LDP slides deeper into crisis. Each attempt by a senior party leader to extract the party from the morass reinforces the image of a party characterized by deep and irresolvable schisms — and a prime minister once again in need of reading material to take his mind off his troubles. (Although perhaps he’s not reading for distraction after all: one of his recent purchases is a book about his grandfather’s time in office, purchased along with his usual diet of conservative tracts.)
In all likelihood Asō Tarō will survive to lead the LDP into the general election; the movement to overthrow will likely do little more than cripple the LDP, reinforcing the image of a governing party incapable of governing itself, let alone Japan.