On Monday all 4 of the DPJ's candidates put in an appearance at a hotel in Tokyo in order to conduct a Q & A session on their respective views in relation to domestic matters - namely the current state of the party and the move to reduce Japan's dependence on nuclear energy. The candidates themselves consist of current PM Noda Yoshihiko (55), former Agriculture Minister Akamatsu Hirotaka (64), former Minister of Public Management Haraguchi Kazuhiro (53), and (until recently) Agricultural Minister Kano Michihiko (70). Given recent events which have effectively splintered the party and which led to mass defections to Ozawa Ichiro's People First Party, one would be forgiven for thinking that this election would raise bitter recriminations for PM Noda given his style of leadership - making an alliance with the LDP and Komeito to raise the consumption tax rate, to name but one obvious example. Yet based on the performance of the candidates on Monday, it appears that PM Noda is pretty much guaranteed to continue in his current position given that his opponents could offer no more compelling arguments against Noda's rule than "a culture of responsible government is important" (a reference to the overturning of previous DPJ policy on taxation). Since most of those dissatisfied with the DPJ have already left it, it was very much a case of preaching to the converted.
Noda has support of powerful DPJ members such as deputy PM Okada Katsuya, Chairman of the Policy Research Council Maehara Seiji, and Foreign Minister Gemba Koichi (relatively young members, it must be noted), along with the group aligned with former PM Kan Naoto and members of the former Democratic Socalist Party (J) (most of whom were absorbed into the DPJ on a centre-right platform). This support has to be contrasted against that of Haraguchi (who is unaligned and therefore has slim chance of being elected), Akamatsu (who is a former Social Democratic Party of Japan member and a strong supporter of the DPJ manifesto, hence not likely to win much favour in the current DPJ), and Kano (who has his own faction, but is lukewarm on questions regarding the TPP and unlikely to offer much by way of strong leadership on complex questions).
One point that hasn't yet been explored within reporting on the DPJ election is the influence of former PM Hatoyama on the voting process. Although he is currently suspended from the DPJ, Hatoyama still possesses the ability to undermine Noda's position by departing the DPJ with his supporters (the few that are still left in the party) should Noda continue in the leadership position (as he revealed here).
While this drama unfolds, for the first time in 13 years the LDP is holding its general leadership election in the same month as that of the DPJ (J), albeit on the 26th (leadership voting for the LDP must be held 10 days before the end of the current leader's term in office, as outlined here). In relation to the LDP's voting method, 20 current Diet members of the LDP must first express in writing their intention to contest the leadership position by submitting a letter to the party secretariat. When voting is conducted (by secret ballot), each LDP member has one vote, which in the case of Diet members is cast at a voting station within the LDP's headquarters in Tokyo while regional members vote by post on the day before the Diet members' vote. At present, there are 199 votes from within the Diet, while regional representatives have a total of 300 votes (each of the 47 prefectures has 3 votes each which are made by the executive of the LDP for their respective prefecture, thus bringing a total of 141 votes, while the remaining 159 votes are drawn from a proportion of party members from across the country - for example, 16 from Tokyo, 10 from Ibaraki, 10 from Gifu, and 10 from Kanagawa etc) bringing the total number of votes to be cast to 499. Votes from both Diet and regional members are then tallied up, and whomever gains the majority of votes (249) is declared leader. If, like the DPJ, no clear majority is established, the first and second placed candidates then face off once again. In the event that this also results in a tie, the decision comes down to the LDP's executive.
Following the declaration by current LDP president Tanigaki Sadakazu on Monday that he did not intend to contest the next leadership vote (for reasons well analysed here), the favoured candidates for the LDP election are former PM Abe Shinzo (57, aligned with the Machimura faction) former Policy Research Secretary and Defence Minister Ishiba Shigeru (55, unaligned), former Chief Cabinet Secretary Machimura Nobutaka (67, head of the Machimura faction), (possibly) current Policy Research Acting Secretary Hayashi Yoshimasa (51, of the Koga faction), and, as current favourite, LDP Secretary General Ishihara Nobuteru (55, of the Yamazaki faction, although expectations are that given the withdrawal of Tanigaki from the race, Ishihara will gain the support of the Koga and Nukaga factions, the latter of which doesn't have a champion of its own).
As for what each candidate stands for, that it more difficult to discern (Abe Shinzo's appearance has raised more than a few eyebrows, given the lacklustre performance he gave as PM and the ignominious manner in which he ditched his post when it all became a bit too much. He is most likely running in an attempt to seem relevant, garner some idea of his following, and foist his decidedly nationalist agenda upon whomever emerges as leader in return for his support). Ishiba has voiced his support for the tripartiate alliance formed with the DPJ and the Komeito to push forward with tax and social security reform. However, as Ishiba is a relative lightweight among the challengers given his lack of factional support, his election seems least likely. Ishihara might promise more, and given the fact he supported Tanigaki's deal with the DPJ on the consumption tax hike he can be expected to push for more fiscal reform. However in the absence of a firm statement outlining a vision for the LDP and how he intends to revive its fortunes, Ishihara remains something of an enigma, although given his previous support for Japanese sovereignty over the Senkaku Islands (J), he will be in good stead to win favours from Hashimoto Toru's Renewal Party (which has its own rightist agenda) and Abe Shinzo's followers .
*This post was updated on the 15th of September.