Next Japan PM: bold leadership a long shot

MAKING ENEMIES

But Democrats, a fractious grouping of former LDP lawmakers, ex-Socialists and younger conservatives, may instead opt for an old-fashioned, LDP-style leader - someone like Agriculture Minister Michihiko Kano, 69, an 11-term veteran with few clear policies and few enemies.

"The Kan government excluded Mr. Ozawa and Mr. Hatoyama and that was not in line with the DPJ's true politics of 'all on one team'," Kano supporter Tenzo Okumura told Reuters.

He was referring to Kan's efforts to sideline scandal-tainted DPJ powerbroker Ichiro Ozawa and his ally, former premier Yukio Hatoyama. "What is being sought now is experience and know-how," Okumura added.

Like Koizumi, the Democrats swept to power promising to change the way Japan is governed after decades of conservative LDP rule. But despite their very different styles, both Kan and predecessor Hatoyama floundered in the face of a divided parliament and a feud-riven ruling party.

DPJ lawmakers such as Okumura, experts say, appear to have learned the wrong lesson from the Liberal Democrats' decades in power and ignored the reasons for Koizumi's success - his willingness to make enemies by sticking to his stance.

"When the DPJ was formed, they took in anyone who opposed the LDP, and since the LDP stood for everything, so did the DPJ," said Chuo University professor Steven Reed.

"They believe that a split has to be avoided at all costs.

They are wrong, but they continue to believe it."

The need to get opposition parties, who control parliament's upper house and can block bills, to cooperate also works against the selection of a bold leader with well-defined policies.

"They somehow need to reach out to the opposition for some legislative coalition ... and that reinforces the tendency to go for someone who is bland and uninspiring," Sophia's Nakano said.

Pure politics aside, an education system that stifles individualism may also be to blame for Japan's long line of mostly colourless leaders. "The education system makes sure that people who stand out are shunted aside," Reed said. "If they get bold leadership, it will be by accident."

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