Australian Labor party internal dispute puts the U.S. GOP to shame; Japanese voters unhappy, may give reformers a shot at leadership

The U.S. GOP is involved in civil war, but the fault lines are largely ideological. A rising power that takes form in the Tea party movement is trying to rest power from the establishment. In Australia, the battle is even more intense, but it is coming from within the ruling party and is entirely personal.

My favourite Anglosphere politician
The party's present convulsions betray a contempt for the electorate, a sense that the little people will put up with whatever they're damn well given. No one is even pretending that the Rudd-Gillard vendetta is ideological. This is the first leadership campaign I can remember where not a single politician has used the words 'I want to focus on the issues'. Given the Corsican nature of what is going on, such a phrase would be risible. Instead, Labor pols fall back on that most desperate of appeals: 'Keep the other lot out'.

Aussie PM battle pits Gillard’s support among insiders against Rudd’s skill with the people
The rivals, once political partners, will face off Monday in a vote of Labor Party lawmakers called by Gillard in hopes of extinguishing Rudd’s desire to recapture the top job. Labor lawmakers turned on Rudd two years ago to install Gillard, but he is banking on his popularity with the public and the fact that polls suggest the party would suffer landslide losses in elections next year with Gillard at the helm.
Rudd resigned from leadership (rather than be fired) in 2010 and was replaced by Gillard. The proximate cause was his support for a mining tax, but it was social mood that was his undoing. The party was weak in the polls and sought a leadership change to maintain power, and the analysts note that Rudd is more popular with the electorate, Gillard with party insiders.
Rudd is the clear underdog in Monday’s secret ballot. Far more Labor lawmakers have spoken out publicly in support of Gillard than for Rudd ahead of the vote — an extraordinarily vicious contest that will leave the party diminished in voters’ eyes regardless of the outcome.
This battle perfectly encapsulates the social mood. Internal fighting for zero political gain for the party and a public looking for new leaders, including possibly a new party in power.
Australia's Gillard Suffers Setback
Mr. Rudd, himself overthrown as prime minister in mid-2010 by Ms. Gillard's supporters, has built his challenge on the argument that he is a better candidate to lead Labor into the next general election, scheduled for late 2013. Mr. Abbott's Liberal-National coalition has built a commanding position in opinion polls.

Still, wresting power from Ms. Gillard is a daunting task. She heads into Monday's vote counting on support from about two-thirds of the 103 member caucus, according to her campaign team. A bigger danger to her leadership could come after the vote. Mr. Rudd's challenge has done long-term damage to Ms. Gillard's government and exposed deep divisions within Labor.

"I believe the last few days have done damage to our party," said Mr. Albanese.
Australia's political situation is bad, but it's nothing compared to Japan's: Prime-Ministerial Unpopularity Contest at the Edge of the Japanese Abyss

This graph shows the popularity of Japanese prime minsters since Junichiro Koizumi left office in 2006 after six years in office. The poll numbers drop for every prime minister because the electorate's mood is negative. They are unhappy with all of their leaders and always want new leadership. In that light, consider this headline: Japan mayor’s call for a ‘dictator’ strikes chord with voters
“What Japan needs most now is a dictator.” Toru Hashimoto (pictured), a lawyer and TV celebrity-turned politician, was quick to add when he made that widely publicised remark last year that a Hitler-style dictatorship was neither desirable nor possible given Japan's democratic checks and balances.

But the call for strong leadership from the charismatic mayor, whom some believe has ambitions to be Japan's next premier, is resonating with voters frustrated by years of political deadlock that has kept the country from tackling the deep-rooted problems of a fast-ageing society. Rising voter support for the boyish-faced Hashimoto, 42, who was elected as mayor of the major western city of Osaka last year after serving three years as governor of the broader region, mirrors the sagging fortunes of Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda.
Voters are clearly in a bad mood and the desire for dictators is also an expression of authoritarian tendencies during periods of negative social mood. More people long for a single figure to step in and push through reform. Where there's more negative social mood, a greater fundamental crisis or history of such leaders, the higher the probability that a nation would turn to a dictator.
"A lot of 'floating voters' who get captivated by the latest flavour could vote for Hashimoto. It's a way of sticking their finger in the eyes of the established parties," said Gerry Curtis, a Columbia University political science professor. Others, though, say Hashimoto may just end up as the latest outsider to fade after a flurry of media and voter attention.
What does Hashimoto propose by way of reforms?
The party's main demands include the direct election of the prime minister and reform or abolition of parliament's upper house which has become the stumbling block for new laws passed by the lower chamber and is blamed by many for Japan's political stalemate. Both changes, though, need hard-to-enact constitutional amendments.

Hashimoto wants to scale back the government's role to diplomacy, defence and macroeconomic policies while giving the regions more independence, a stance echoed by many other local politicians as well as the small Your Party, created in 2009 by former LDP lawmaker Yoshimi Watanabe, now a Hashimoto ally.
The first paragraph's reforms are change for change's sake in my opinion, as the form of government is not the problem. The second paragraph sounds like the U.S. Tea party movement or Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul: a push for smaller and more decentralized government. This is a move away from dictatorship.

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