Japan: Narrow Shave

After a couple of two-year terms of competent but colorless rule, Japan's Prime Minister Hayato Ikeda, 64, was supposed by custom to make way for a successor. But when the ruling Liberal-Democratic Party met in Tokyo last week to choose a new president—and hence a new Prime Minister—Ikeda upset tradition by bidding for a third term.*

Square-jawed and obstinate, Ikeda decided that a third term was precisely what he needed to carry out some "unfinished business," although he never said exactly what that business might be. Two formidable rivals challenged him: 1)...