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Tanigaki unlikely to turn around LDP fortunes
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The selection of Sadakazu Tanigaki to be president of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) in Japan on Monday will do little to help the short-term fortunes of the beleaguered party, according to Koichi Nakano, a professor of politics at Sophia University in Tokyo.

Japan's Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) has chosen former finance minister Sadakazu Tanigaki to be its new leader as it struggles to rebuild itself after last month's crushing election defeat.[Xinhua/AFP Photo] 

"It will take more than just a new leader to revive the LDP as a party," said Nakano. "It is going to be difficult. After the electoral defeat last month, the LDP ended up being very much dominated by the old guard, many of whom supported Tanigaki in this race. So how can you reinvent the party when you don't have that many new members among the rank and file?"

Tanigaki won the election, in which 498 Diet members and local chapter members of the LDP voted, taking 300 votes.

Tanigaki, a former finance minister in the government of Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, argued at a Friday news conference that he will aim to take the party back to its conservative values: A love of the nation and Japanese culture, focus on community and family ties.

Whether this will be enough to revive the party, however, is questionable.

Nakano argues that solving the problems the LDP are suffering will take much more than Tanigaki is capable of.

"The electoral setback was a problem, but it is not the only problem facing the LDP," said Nakano.

"It has deeper structural problems, to do with the diminishing pool of talent it has suffered in the last few years. I will be very surprised if Tanigaki lasts as the LDP's leader and one day becomes the prime minister of the country. I think most likely he will preside over a dwindling and perhaps divided LDP for a couple of years, maybe his tenure will be even shorter than that."

Nakano also points to Tanigaki's election as being symptomatic of the party's lack of new talent: "Years ago, when Koizumi was still the prime minister of the country, (Former Prime Minister Yoshiro) Mori said that there were four possible successors to Koizumi: that was Aso, Abe, Tanigaki and Fukuda. The other three took turns at being prime minister with rather dismal results, and now it is Tanigaki, so in some ways Mori's earlier prediction has come true. But there must be some reason that Tanigaki was left out until now, and now we are at the bottom of the list Mori made many years ago, I don't think we can expect much."

Tanigaki's first challenge will come next month, when on Oct. 25 there are by-election in Kanagawa and Shizuoka prefectures for seats in the upper house.

In both of these contests, the LDP and DPJ are expected to field candidates, in an early test for both the Democratic Party of Japan government of Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama and the LDP under Tanigaki.

Meanwhile, the futures of Tanigaki's two political opponents, Taro Kono and Yasutoshi Nishimura are likely to have very different futures according to Nakano.

"It is possible that Nishimura will be promoted," he said. "He was somebody that nobody knew, even in the LDP he was not well known. Now that he has got some recognition even though it is not so much. But as Tanigaki attempts to unite the party he may give Nishimura a position."

He added that there was some question about the reason that Nishimura decided to stand in the first place.

"It is quite possible that he was secretly promoted by some of the old guard to divide the so-called 'youth vote,' and to compete with Kono's candidacy."

Both Kono and Nishimura are 46 years old, and campaigned on a platform of changing the LDP by giving somebody from a younger generation an opportunity to lead the party.

Kono, on the other hand, had few friends in the upper reaches of the LDP and may no longer have a future in the party.

"Kono made too many enemies within the old guard of the LDP and so I will be surprised if he is included in Tanigaki's team. In some ways, it wouldn't be surprising if Kono left the party at some point. He may join Minna no Tou, or he may become an independent."

(Xinhua News Agency September 29, 2009)

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