Sunday, June 28, 2009

The Aso Cabinet's Desperate Struggle

The resignation of Internal Affairs Minister Kunio Hatoyama may be the final blow for the Aso Cabinet. Support for the Cabinet is plummeting. The likelihood of regime change in the next election is rising. On June 14, Chiba City voters elected as their mayor Toshihito Kumagai, a 31-year-old candidate backed by the Democratic Party of Japan and the Social Democratic Party. Recently, the DPJ-backed candidates won mayoral races in Saitama and Nagoya cities. For the Liberal Democratic Party, it's an avalanche of bad news. Now the Tokyo assembly elections are looking tough for the LDP and coalition partner New Komeito.

More voices are calling for political change. The opposition parties are in their element. An energetic event on June 11 at the Parliamentary Museum hinted that political change was near as Shizuka Kamei, chief of the People's New Party, delivered a speech entitled, "What Should Japan Do?" DPJ leader Yukio Hatoyama dropped in to say a few words at the seminar, and he was received as if he were already Japan's next prime minister.

Ever since the DPJ changed leaders in mid-May, public opinion has been changing. Then there came the resignation of the internal affairs minister. The Aso Cabinet is struggling to survive.
The LDP is still planning to go into the general election with the Aso Cabinet, which the public has found wanting. It is asking for voters to trust and respect this Cabinet. More than a few voters are disappointed with the party's tone-deaf approach. The party is starting to shed supporters as well as hopes for the future.

As I travel around the country, I pick up a lot of information. For example, in one region, a religious organization that supports the New Komeito Party has told its members that it should vote for New Komeito in the proportional part of the vote but they are free to back any candidate in the electoral district vote. The LDP, forged in 1955 by combining two parties, used to be a better political party. The end of the LDP is near.

The party needs to reflect on its actions. It must acknowledge the mistakes it has made with the Koizumi-Takenaka structural reforms and the appointment of Aso as prime minister. This wrong-headedness will bring them ruin. Never be afraid to correct a mistake.

The old LDP had some flexibility. Today's party leaders just seem to get more rigid. The party needs to find a new leader and a new set of policies to ride into the election. The next Cabinet will be focused on managing the election. The Hatoyama-led DPJ is all set. But the LDP needs to muster the courage to resign and stand unadorned in front of the electorate to await the voters' judgment.