Protesting too much?

In a short span of time, Prime Minister Tarō Asō, Chief Cabinet Secretary Takeo Kawamura, and LDP Secretary-General Hiroyuki Hosoda rejected the attempt by Asō's opponents to link the LDP's performance in the July 12 Tokyo assembly election to Asō's future as LDP leader.

At a press conference Wednesday, Kawamura echoed Hosoda in insisting that there is no connection whatsoever between the LDP's performance in local elections and the prime minister's future as party leader: "The Tokyo assembly election is the Tokyo assembly election."

Speaking with the press Wednesday, Asō stated that regional elections and the general elections are completely distinct and therefore there should be no talk of his taking responsibility via resignation should the party perform poorly in Tokyo.

Of course, it is hard to square this position with the prime minister's decision to visit with all of the LDP's candidates for the Tokyo assembly, something that Asō's allies and opponents have noticed. Undoubtedly it will take more than this trio asserting that there is no link between the two elections to dispel this scheme for how Asō can be edged out with minimal confrontation within the party. This in turn raises the possibility that Asō will follow Makoto Koga and opt for a 12 July double election.

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