Anyone getting tired of US campaign hijinks is strongly urged to cast their glances across the Pacific to Japan. Last week's resignation by the prime minister has set off a battle for the leadership of the ruling party (and hence the prime ministership) the like of which the country has rarely seen.
As of yesterday, six candidates had declared themselves to be in the race, which will be decided by legislators and local prefectural bosses. The race is generating enough excitement that some critics are arguing the whole process is being staged in order to grab attention.
Taro Aso, the very former* conservative foreign minister, appears likely to win. But he is being challenged by a cast of new up-and-comers, including the first woman to put herself forward for the office.
The leadership election will be held on September 22. The winner will be PM, but also face pressure to call a quick election. Japan's ruling party, the LDP, has governed almost without interruption for fifty years, but the country's political system is undergoing some staggering shifts.
In the weeks ahead, we'll try here to delve a little more deeply into what's going on. Despite being one of the world's largest economies, and one of Asia's oldest democracies, Japan has dropped out of the conversation for a while - maybe because its problems have been so run-of-the-mill. But there are interesting social, political, and economic shifts underway that may crystallize in these races.
*UPDATED: As Michael Auslin notes in the comments below, Aso is a former, not current, foreign minister.