With the approval rating of the Hatoyama administration having fallen below 40 percent, now is a good time for the opposition Liberal Democratic Party to launch into action and try to win back lost ground. But the party has so far failed to grab its chance. Its support rate has not rebounded significantly, and not a few LDP members are dissatisfied with the party leadership, headed by former Finance Minister Sadakazu Tanigaki.

Symbolic of the LDP’s disarray is the departure of Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama’s younger brother, Mr. Kunio Hatoyama, a former justice and internal affairs minister. On Monday, he announced that he was leaving the LDP to form a new party. He is the first Lower House member to leave the LDP since its fall from power in September. Five LDP Upper House members have already quit the party. Also on Monday, LDP Acting Secretary General Hiroyuki Sonoda, who had been an ally of Mr. Tanigaki, resigned from his post. Other prominent LDP figures, such as former health and welfare minister Yoichi Masuzoe and former finance minister Kaoru Yosano, have expressed their displeasure with the party leadership.

Mr. Kunio Hatoyama said that by forming a new party, he plans to prevent the nation from “falling into ruin” under the administration of the Democratic Party of Japan, which he said has a “strong color of socialism.”

He seems likely to try to band together with Mr. Masuzoe and Mr. Yosano, but it is unclear whether any other LDP lawmakers will get on board. The younger Hatoyama’s vulnerability is that he has changed his party affiliation many times — from the New Liberal Club to the LDP, Shinshinto, the DPJ and then back to the LDP. Another weaknessis that he has not spelled out a basic policy agenda for his new party.

His departure adds to the headaches of the LDP chief, Mr. Tanigaki. It came just as Komeito, a former coalition partner of the LDP, is making advances to the DPJ. Many other organizations which used to support the LDP are abandoning the party. If he is to revitalize his party, Mr. Tanigaki must develop a policy platform that is both distinct from the DPJ’s and attractive to voters.

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