“I have long since given up trying to read Ozawa’s mind and am willing to believe that any, or all, or none of these reasons is the real reason for Ozawa’s decision.”
If you are as confused as I am about the motivations, possibilities, and prospects of the current DPJ leadership race, you can take comfort that the quote above is taken from a blog post of chief DPJ cheerleader Tobias Harris.
Yours truly is a pessimistic conservative, with a very low opinion of the DPJ. Yet I am surprised to find myself too dumbfounded by the ironies and contraditions of the DPJ leadership race to have an opinion at this latest round of musical chairs. In lieu of asserting any case or opinion one way or the other, I would note these ironies and contraditions and open up the floor to comments.
1. Public opinion polls put Ozawa as the favored candidate to be PM by 17%, and Kan favored by 64%. With those poll numbers, Ozawa would not be a viable contender, let alone favorite to win, in any other parliamentary democracy.
2. The poll numbers reflect a fascinating contradition: Kan is well-liked, but who brought the party to lose the last election, while Ozawa is widely mistrusted, yet is a master electoral strategist.
3. Said otherwise, Kan has a record of being a pretty incompetent political leader (like saying that he should raise taxes just before an election), but he ironically has more popularity with the public, perhaps mainly due to a few lucky breaks in his political career. Meanwhile, Ozawa is one of Japan’s politicians when it comes to planning election campaigns and fielding the right candidates in the right districts, but he is tainted by dozens of scandals and featherlight loyalties to any institution other than himself.
4. As observed by Shisaku: “If [Ozawa] wins the contest, he destroys the party: either metaphorically through the collapse of its public support or physically as large groups break off, forming new parties. If he loses a formal leadership contest, he gashes his aura of awesome power. The humiliation of losing could indeed drive him to leave the party, with a passel of his followers in tow (taking his ball and going home—which he has done time and time again).” No matter who wins, the DPJ will be the loser.
5. Despite Shisaku’s comment, I don’t deny the possibility that, after five feckless prime ministers, Ozawa just might be the right candidate to break the cycle and serve out a proper term, providing some much-needed leadership, and could turn out to be a successful, and even popular, prime minister.
The leadership election takes place on 14 September. It will be interesting to watch because it will be the first DPJ leadership vote in 8 years to be more than a vote by parliamentarians. Votes will be cast by party supporters and members, using a “point system” to allocate votes to the candidates.