Blue blood blues
Illustration: Adam Fitzcharles

The LDP's reformists continue to battle family politics

Surprisingly, given the howls of protest from within the LDP that greeted Suga Yoshihide's proposal to include a ban on hereditary candidates in the party's election manifesto, the LDP appears ready to include restrictions on political inheritances in the manifesto after Suga met with Koga Makoto, the LDP's chief elections strategist, and Ibuki Bunmei, former LDP secretary-general and cabinet minister. Asahi reports that the proposed restriction will take the form of a regulation that will require a retiring politician to transfer his political organization's funds to the party upon retirement.

Given the prime minister's opposition to the idea, I wonder whether the agreement between Suga and Koga will be enough to secure inclusion in the manifesto.

Nevertheless, the party's reformists have latched on to the idea, suggesting that whatever happens with the LDP's manifesto, it will not go away. Restricting political inheritance is only the latest means for the reformists to run against their own party. Yamamoto Ichita, in an explication spanning four posts, frequently notes that forty percent of LDP Diet members are hereditary members — and says (unironically, given the phrase's original context) that the party needs to be able to draw upon the "best and the brightest." Giving preference to hereditary members, he argues, has turned potentially talented individuals away from the LDP. (There may be something to this: I wonder how many of the DPJ's younger members had hoped to earn the LDP's endorsement and turned to the DPJ only upon finding the LDP's doors closed to them.) Yamamoto also is unconvincing on the constitutionality of these restrictions, treating it in the context of restrictions on the freedom to choice one's occupation (Article 22), rather than, say, political discrimination on the basis of family origin (Article 14).

Through it all, Yamamoto and the other advocates fail to demonstrate why this is such an urgent problem at this point — and why it should be a prominent subject for discussion in the general election campaign. Ultimately discussions like this amount to political bait-and-switch, efforts by LDP reformists to sell the idea that the LDP has the potential to be the party of change, if only the reformists are given the run of things. 2005 may seem like a long time ago, but I hope voters remember what happened then: voters rewarded Koizumi Junichiro and his "children" with a huge majority, stripped of the hard core of Koizumi's "opposition forces," only to have the LDP readmit nearly all of the postal rebels mere months after Koizumi left office. The past four years have been one long retreat from the promise of Koizumi's new party. Why should the voters trust the LDP to be any different this time around, despite the promises of Nakagawa Hidenao and company?

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