'Age cannot wither her, nor custom stale her infinite variety' could be seen as a virtue in human beings but not in political parties. The Liberal Democratic Party of Japan is rather old and both 'custom' and 'infinite variety' has soured its effectiveness and appeal. For over fifty years it has dominated national politics in Japan leading the country through the path of economic reconstruction, the bursting of the bubble economy and economic slowdown. Though its political support comes primarily from conservative faming communities, business groups or keiretsu and white-collar workers, in recent years it has alienated a large section of its supporters through nepotism, sleaze, graft and glib talk. The LDP has now become a party of competing factions whose diverse interests have not allowed it to unite and find a consensus on issues of national importance.
The LDP must now deliberate on the 23rd of September 2007 to choose a successor to Mr. Shinzo Abe who exited in a hurry. There are nine factions within the LDP each led by a seasoned politician who might have also served as the prime minister in the past. The most powerful faction, the Machimura faction, and seven other factions have given their unqualified support to the 71-years old former chief cabinet secretary, Yasuo Fukuda, while the 66-year old LDP Secretary General, Taro Aso, has the support of his own faction. Aso still hopes to get the support of 141 representatives from different prefectures of Japan, but he is fighting a losing battle.
As the race to choose the leader of the LDP heats up it is becoming rather difficult for the electorate to support either candidate, as they have not clearly debated their aims and goals. Fukuda has emphasized that national 'stagnation' can be overcome through structural reforms and this will benefit both the young and the old alike. He would like to conduct a dialogue with North Korea on the abduction issue while Aso believes that a hard-line, pressure tactics approach adopted by Koizumi and Abe would work. Both Fukuda and Aso feel a new democratic structure should be made to celebrate the war dead, but Aso argues that the problem of Class A war criminals enshrined in the Yasukuni Shrine would not be overcome nor the Shrine be replaced by a new structure. Both agree on the issue of the MSDF refueling the multinational ships in the Indian Ocean and Fukuda suggested further negotiations with the DPJ.
Japan is passing through a political crisis. It is imperative that the LDP quickly resolves its internal factional politics and finds a capable leader either in Fukuda or Aso. It must once more come together as a party, include its coalition partner The New Komeito and fight with one goal, one purpose, and one desire. The LDP should leave aside party politics and negotiate boldly and fruitfully with the opposition DPJ and its leader Ichiro Ozawa to renew the Anti Terrorism Law and refurbish the depressed economy. The DPJ must also move beyond just opposing the Japan-US alliance and spell out a constructive Japan-U.S. security policy that would be beneficial to both nations.
It seems that for the time being Fukuda who leads by an 88 percent majority would win. This might be a cause for celebration for the Machimura faction and Fukuda but no leader would like to be in Fukuda's shoes. Fukuda's position is rather difficult as he stands between the devil and the deep sea, for he has to negotiate with Mr. Ozawa and also appease the U.S. If Aso loses the race for the party presidency he should be happy in his defeat. In the midst of the hectic activity of the LDP electing its leader, the opposition parties are demanding a quick dissolution of the lower house and nation-wide elections.