Saturday, April 17, 2010

The Vultures Surround Dove Mountain

The support numbers in April 9-12 Jiji Press poll tells the tale: Cabinet support has sunk to 23.7% of those polled, a 2 point drop since last month. The percentage of those declaring they do not support (fushiji) the Cabinet rose 8 points from a month ago, to 56.5%.

When asked the reason why they do not support the Hatoyama-led Cabinet, the fushiji voters split into three big, nearly equal and predictable chunks.

35% - "Because we cannot expect anything from it/him"

32% - "Because Hatoyama/it displays no leadership"

21% - "Because his/its policies are pointless"

This is the price of promising change one is not willing to make an effort to deliver(the Futenma imbroglio -- if Hatoyama had really staked his political life on it, working tirelessly for some small measure of justice for the people of Okinawa, he would be enjoying significant popular support, since most of the public hate the 2006 Agreement moving the base to Henoko). This is the price of chasing after pennies (the 300,000 votes nationwide of the hereditary post office operators and the postal worker's union, for example) whilst allowing the dollars (the 40% to 50% of the electorate that is not affiliated with any party) to fly away in the wind.

Messrs. Hatoyama and Ozawa Ichiro, you do have to put together coalitions of interests and make all kinds promises you can only partly keep in order to win election. However, after the election, you have to keep your eye on the prize: keeping the average, unaffiliated voter confident in your leadership and content with the direction of the country.

It was the switch from election mode to ruling mode that you have blown here. The people really, really liked you (well, Hatoyama-san at least). They knew you would not be able to accomplish even a fraction of what your Manifesto said you would do -- so there was not going to be a reckoning for being only partially successful in implementing your plans. Sure the Prosecutors Office, egged on by shadowy figures, have made your lives hard. But at a time when the scandals are losing their grip on the public's imagination -- in the Jiji poll, the percentage of persons saying that Ozawa must either resign his Diet seat entirely (29%) or just from his post as DPJ Secretary-General (46%) both declined from their levels of last month -- it is your too-clever-by-half political pandering in preparation for the July House of Councillors election that is driving a wooden stake through your rule.


Anonymous said...

Certain influential DPJ politicians confided in me during the election that the biggest challenge wasn't winning the election, but maintaining public support for the Party. They said the winds were going with them then, but it wouldn't be the same in six months. You could argue that it was faster than six months, but regardless, this is expected. That's why I believe you hear some influential DPJ Members saying they aren't fazed by low poll numbers.

Of course, the Hatoyama Administration wasn't given a good situation to start with, and as you rightly point out, nobody expected them to accomplish anything in the manifesto (something like 80% polled before the election), but when your situation has gone from bad to somewhere still around bad, every little thing will be scrutinized. Most people outside of Futenma don't care too much about the situation, but along with the the nationalists use it symbolically as a crucifix for the Hatoyama administration and their frustration with business (i.e. corruption) as usual (see Ozawa).

The ship is not lost, so don't burn your pyre before the body is laid.

Anonymous said...

The polls leave me very confused as to what will happen in the upper house election. Despite the weekly accounts of falling support for the DPJ, they still maintain a plurality an a clear-enough lead over any other party, when Japanese are asked either "which party do you support?" or "who will you vote for?". Where much of the DPJ support has gone is to "none of the above" (now over 50%!) but that can't be reflected in post-election seats per se. So does that mean the DPJ gets on fine in anyway, as the least unpopular option? "Minna no To" is doing well in the polls, but can't win more seats than they have candidates, so their 7% support doesn't translate into seats either.