One of the major pillars of candidacy of Ozawa Ichiro to be leader of the Democratic Party of Japan is his stated faith that the party has lost its way. By pulling back from the promises that it made to the public in the 2009 party Manifesto, the DPJ has lost the public's trust and in such faces ruin. He insists that when he is elected party leader, he will return the DPJ to its true path of fulfilling the promises made in the run up to the August 2009 House of Representatives election, reviving the party's strength.
While the DPJ did sweep to power on a wave of public enthusiasm about what the party could do for the country, does the public really care about the exact promises made in the 2009 Manifesto?
Not according to the polls, they do not.
In the Kyodo News poll released on August 29, 2010, pollsters asked members of the public about specific programs listed in the DPJ's Manifesto - whether they felt the program should be carried out absolutely, carried out to a certain extent (aru teido ni) or not carried out at all.
The result of their questions were:
Supplemental child support payments
To a certain extent 42%
Should not be carried out 35%
Income supplement payments to farm households
To a certain extent 49%
Should not be carried out 17%
Removing the tolls from the nation's expressways
To a certain extent 30%
Should not be carried out 52%
Cancellation of the temporary levy on gasoline
To a certain extent 38%
Should not be carried out 23%
In every case except the removal of tolls from the nation's expressways (a really unpopular idea, the reason being that the expressways' outstanding debts would have to be nationalized) the indication is that the public is most often lukewarm about pretty much every one of DPJ's campaign promises and would be more happy if they were only carried out only partway.
Similarly, the Mainichi Shimbun, in its poll published on August 30, 2010, asked members of the public about the implementation of the promises made in the 2009 Manifesto. The pollsters asked:
"Inside the DPJ, in the face of a severe fiscal situation, there are those who are of the opinion that the Manifesto should be revised showing some flexibility while others are of the opinion that the Manifesto must be carried out strictly. What do you think?"
The responses were:
Should be revised showing some flexibility 70%
Should be carried out strictly 27%
So why Ozawa continues to bang on about carrying out the promises of the 2009 Manifesto when the public is not particularly interested in them is beyond me. Perhaps he cannot divest himself of the principle that a politician should above all avoid the appearance of having been lying. The public has only a moderate attachment to the promises made to them in 2009. These were promises made by politicians, after all -- and the public, after 53 years of LDP rule -- is not naive about what a politician's promise is worth.