Ruling party's factions retreat; Japan election: silky smooth

Japan has been spared a period of instability with the political victory of Yasuhiro Nakasone.

What every political analyst here had feared was an open feud between factions of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), possibly leading to losers bolting the party to form a coalition with middle-of-the-road opposition groups.

But the decisive victory of Nakasone as party chief, and his all-but-certain election as prime minister by the LDP-controled Parliament expected Nov. 26, prevented an open battle.

Nakasone attributed his party victory to the public desire for ''strong leadership.'' But he takes office on the votes of some half million LDP members and LDP members of the Diet (Parliament). The public at large was not involved and seemed rather apathetic.

One truck driver commented on hearing the outcome of the party election: ''That's not news. They're all the same.'' And a housewife shrugged:''It doesn't matter whose name comes out on top. It's still the same people running Japan.

Many people spoke bitterly of the continued behind-the-scenes domination of the LDP by former Prime Minister Kakuei Tanaka, who quit the party in 1976 when he was arrested in the Lockheed bribery scandal. His trial is expected to end in conviction next year.

Members of the Tanaka faction, the party's largest, are expected to pick up the best cabinet and party posts, although the three losing candidates in the Nov. 23 primary have promised to fight hard against this.

There is considerable speculation Nakasone will go to the public with simultaneous upper and lower house elections within the first six months of next year. One reason would be to try and gain a broad-based mandate for his policies. Secondly, he would not want to await the outcome of the Tanaka trial which could be used by the opposition as an issue.

Meanwhile, the business community, which provides financial support to the ruling party, have urged Nakasone to make a quick start on decisive government policies to restore public faith in politics, develop an austere but highly efficient government, produce firm measures to rescue Japan from a prolonged recession that is ravaging many industrial sectors and solve trade frictions with the United States and Europe by opening the Japanese market wider to foreign interests.

To avoid the prospect of factional feuds within the party, outgoing Prime Minister Zenko Suzuki, when announcing his surprise resignation last month, sought to name Mr. Nakasone his successor. This candidacy was backed by the three so-called ''mainstream'' factions of the party, which claim two-thirds of the LDP Diet membership.

But three candidates from the non-mainstream side of the party -- Toshio Komoto, Shintaro Abe, and Ichiro Nakagawa - stepped forward to contest Nakasone's right to succession, leading to the primary. Originally, it had been expected Mr. Komoto would emerge on top in the party primary, because of his supposed strong support at grass-roots level, but he would then be toppled in the Diet run-off vote.

There are several reasons why this scenario did not materialize, according to political analysts. First, the 250-odd dietmen of the mainstream factions went back to their home districts to campaign vigorously for Nakasone. As the month-long campaign developed, voter sentiment shifted. More and more people wanted to be on the side of the apparent winner. They also wanted to see party unity and the emergence of a strong government to tackle the multiple problems now troubling Japan.

Almost 58 percent of the ruling LDP supported Nakasone in the party primary election.

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