Friday, September 03, 2021

How to run a leadership race

Mr. Charisma step down
(History news seems to be in the doldrums these days.  So a little more politics, but not about the Canadian election. Not directly, anyway.)

After a year in office, Japanese prime minister Yoshihide Suga announced he will not be a candidate in the Liberal-Democratic Party vote on party leadership.

The choice of the new party leader and prime minister will be determined by members of the LDP caucus in the lower house of the Japanese parliament -- though most news reports don't go into this aspect of the race in any detail.  

The new leader will be chosen by September 29.  A general election must be called by November.  Prime Minister Suga is unpopular both for Covid response failures and disappointment with the handling of the Tokyo Olympics.  But it is also noted he is "deeply uncharismatic" and, at 73, cannot hold the support of the younger backbenchers in his party.

Note: a Japanese leadership contest takes a couple of weeks, costs nothing, and ensures the accountability of the new leader to the parliamentary caucus. Japanese political culture is not the same as Canada's, and prime ministerial leadership is much less fetishized there. That system has worked pretty well for the LDP.  Its party leaders come and go pretty rapidly -- it's a very efficient system for getting rid of failing or unpopular leaders like Suga -- but the party has remained in power pretty much steadily since the restoration of parliamentary democracy in 1945. 

Do we really do better with unaccountable leaders, sheeplike backbenchers, and leadership races that take years, cost millions, and mostly involve the massive competitive buying of votes (called "memberships")? 


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