Finally some genuinely interesting news on the LDP reform front – it was announced today that a new study group, with approximately 30 “young” LDP members making up its core, has been set up. (keizai senryaku kenkyuu kai – 経済戦略研究会) Masuzoe Yoichi, a former Minister of Health, Labor and Welfare, is none too surprisingly the chair given his rumblings over the lack of proper reform within the LDP since the severe losses in the Lower House elections last year.
This new study group is not only a reaction to this lack of progress but also recognition that despite the DPJ fall in popularity, this has not translated into a rise for the LDP. The article goes on to mention that this could be a platform for Masuzoe to run for LDP president at some point, or to even form a new political party. The second is not quite as far fetched as might be thought – as suggested there is a significant amount of “vote” in play given the public’s disappointment with both parties, and Watanabe Yoshimi’s minna no tou (Your/Everyone’s Party depending on how you swing) has made some gains lately and looks to be recruiting. And possibly most interestingly, this “party”/study group unlike the two major parties has a very clear policy and ideological platform. According to the article the group is committed to pushing forth with the postal privatisation agenda, and the general structural reforms that Koizumi pursued while in office. Given that “Koizumi’s children” were the big losers within the LDP ranks at the last election (which probably had little to do with their policies, and more the LDP brand), it is a full challenge to the current LDP leadership/old guard to make nice, and offer a coherent agenda, rather than get overly precious about the “money and politics” narrative that seems to be (painfully ironically) occupying the LDP leadership currently. The main short term goal seems to be to offer some space for internal discussion, to influence the LDP’s HoC manifesto, and to help the LDP to clarify its point of difference from the DPJ.
Personally, I would like to see them split away – at first they could serve as a party, that the DPJ should work with if they fail to get the needed HoC votes later this year*, rather than the current odd lot, or in an awkward partnership with komeito as I have seen mentioned lately. Secondly, over time this party (or a thoroughly renewed LDP – lots of barriers to that since the current lot are locked in for four years and the old guard may prefer to retire than give the party away to the “youngsters”) may well offer a legitimate choice for the next Lower House election. This could make for some very interesting and genuine policy debates leading up to that now that the leadership of the DPJ has suggested that they will go to the public with any suggestion of a Sales Tax increase (ie not increase it before then) during the next Lower House election cycle.
Watch this space.
*(either to create a supermajority in the lower house, or preferably in a 2 or 3 headed coalition with Watanabe’s party within the HoC – trying to hunt down a list of those in attendance to see what the electoral implications could be.)
The main instigators appear to be:
Hiroshige Sekou (HoC), Kajiyama Hiroshi (HoR), Suga Yoshihide (HoR), Kawaguchi Yoriko (HoC), Shiozaki Yasuhisa (HoR) and Masuzoe Youichi (HoC)
A summary from Yamamoto Ichita here. From here it seems the Lower House members were most vocal.