Despite criticism from members of the cabinet last week, all signed the cabinet decision for dissolution. Before dissolving, Aso attended a meeting with LDP Diet members, humbly accepted their criticism, and then proceeded to dissolve the lower house.
The campaign will officially begin in twenty-seven days, on 18 August, but in the meantime the tasks for the LDP and the DPJ are clear.
Above all, the LDP has to unify: after a brutal and ultimately futile feud between Aso and his supporters, and the party’s reformist camp, the LDP has to unite behind a single manifesto and behind Aso’s leadership. The LDP’s infighting has made it remarkably easy for the DPJ to argue that the LDP is incapable of governing Japan. The more the LDP fights with itself, the harder it is for the party to claim that the DPJ cannot be trusted with power. This will, of course, be the party’s central message in the campaign (see this discussion at Mutantfrog of a new LDP Internet ad).
The DPJ, while it goes into the campaign season with a sizable lead in public opinion polls, cannot rest on its laurels. Needing to pick up an extraordinarily difficult 129 seats to secure a majority in its own right, the DPJ must not assume that the general election is already won. The LDP is still a potent adversary, especially if Tuesday marks the beginning of a genuine truce in the LDP’s ranks. Accordingly, the DPJ’s leadership recognizes that the party must not be overly optimistic as its candidates go out on the hustings.
As has long been clear, the contest over the next month is simple. Which narrative will win? Will the DPJ be able to make the general election a referendum not just on the past year of Aso rule, not just the past four years of LDP rule but on the LDP system of government more generally? Or will the LDP succeed in making this election about the dangers of abandoning the LDP for the DPJ’s cloud cuckoo land?