JAPANESE Prime Minister Kiichi Miyazawa's resignation from the presidency of the Liberal Democratic Party - which will ultimately lead to his exit from the premiership once his caretaker role is over - deepens the uncertainties in which Japanese politics are currently enmeshed. Essentially there are now two separate but entwined power struggles in progress in Tokyo. First there is the struggle within the LDP to find a successor to Mr Miyazawa, a process which has already increased the generational cleavage within the party. Second, there is the ongoing struggle among the nine political parties to see which combination of parties has a chance of forming a coalition capable of winning a majority in the House of Representatives. Obviously the two struggles are closely related. Only if the LDP chooses a leader with strong reformist credentials has it a hope of securing support from two of the new opposition parties, the Japan New Party and Sakigake (New Forerunner Party), or indeed with the old opposition - the Komeito (Clean Government Party). But the LDP old guard is showing clear signs of failing to recognise that the party can no longer order Japanese politics by itself and must instead adapt to changed circumstances. Almost incredibly, the Japanese press was told that the party elders wanted a succession arranged through negotiation because they feared that a vote on the succession would lead to a new split in the party. The opposite was nearer the truth. As the elders learned yesterday at a meeting of LDP members of both houses of the Diet, not to hold a vote would almost certainly result in more younger MPs quitting the party. In what, by Japanese standards, was vitriolic language, the top party officials heard one MP describe them as Class-A and Class-B war criminals. Mr Miyazawa's resignation speech and several of the oratorical outbursts were televised live nationwide. The impact can hardly be imagined. Japan has simply not experienced such emotional political controversy since the debate over the US security treatyin 1960. The upshot was that the elders failed in their attempt for a quick fix. It has been agreed that there will be a vote for the new leader by the LDP Diet caucus. So far, a date has not been agreed. But the acrimony clearly indicates that more defections from the LDP can be anticipated if an ill and ageing veteran, like former foreign minister Michio Watanabe, or any of the other old factional leaders, are chosen by the caucus. Relatively youthful former finance minister Ryutaro Hashimoto might appeal to younger MPs and might seem a compromise choice for the party elders, since he has made some comments which indicate he is not necessarily in favour of political and electoral reform. The potential LDP leader with the best reformist credentials remains former prime minister Toshiki Kaifu - the man whom the party bosses bounced out of the premiership when he tried to keep the LDP's reformist pledges. They may be reluctant to reinstate Mr Kaifu as prime minister. The best compromise choice, at the moment, would almost certainly be Deputy Prime Minister Masaharu Gotoda. At 78, he is a veteran himself, trusted by the party elders. Yet he has made no secret of his belief that reform is essential.