First, let us check out the English-language sources. Over at The Japan Times Online:
Cabinet polls at new record low of 15.8%Now at Kyodo's own English language site:
The public support rate for Prime Minister Naoto Kan's Cabinet has fallen to 15.8 percent, the lowest since he took office in June last year, a poll showed Sunday.
In a telephone poll conducted by Kyodo News on Saturday and Sunday, former Foreign Minister Seiji Maehara was the most popular of the candidates likely to succeed Kan, drawing 28 percent of respondents' votes.
Some 66.5 percent of the respondents said cooperation between the ruling Democratic Party of Japan and the opposition parties over specific policies is the best course of action for the next administration once Kan steps down, while 19.7 percent want a grand coalition by the DPJ and the conservative Liberal Democratic Party, the largest opposition force.
Kan's support rate hits record low, Maehara favorite successorAll right, that the Cabinet of Prime Minister Kan Naoto is moribund is not news, as the PM himself showed when he shuffled through the book racks at the Yaesu Book Center the other day, looking for reading material to fill up his plentiful post-premiership free time (ja). Who is to going to pledge allegiance to a government whose leader is simply hanging around until the LDP makes good on its promises to be nice and vote for the bond issuance bill and the renewable energy bill?
The public support rate for Prime Minister Naoto Kan's Cabinet has fallen to 15.8 percent, down from 17.1 percent last month and the lowest since he took office in June last year, a Kyodo News poll showed Sunday.
The Kan government's disapproval rating stands at 70.0 percent.
In a telephone poll conducted on Saturday and Sunday, former Foreign Minister Seiji Maehara was the most popular politician among the potential candidates to succeed Kan, receiving 28 percent of votes by respondents, followed by Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano with 11.0 percent and DPJ Secretary General Katsuya Okada with 10.9 percent. *
As for race to replace Kan, the new findings add fuel to the speculation that Maehara Seiji will reverse himself and run for the post of leader of the Democratic Party of Japan, dashing the hopes of Finance Minister Noda Yoshihiko, who had been counting on the support of Maehara's 50-member group. According to reports, Noda had a private meeting with Maehara on Saturday night where Maehara told him there were "difficulties" (konnan) in consolidating support for him in Maehara's group (ja).
The numbers for Edano Yukio and Okada Katsuya tell us nearly nothing, as neither of the two has indicated a wish to run for the post of party leader. The numbers indeed represent a collapse of support for both men, for they scored higher (Okada 15.8%: Edano 15.6%) in the poll Kyodo conducted in July.
Among those in the running for the post of leader, or presumed to be in the running, the numbers are:
Maehara Seiji 28.0
Noda Yoshihiko 4.8
Kaieda Banri 4.7
Mabuchi Sumio 3.5
Kano Michihiko 1.5
Tarutoko Shinji 0.3
The number of respondents saying, "Don’t Know/Can’t Say" dropped slightly, from 29.3% in the last poll to 26.7% in the current poll. **
The real news in the poll is the shift in the party support numbers for the two major parties. Respondents counting themselves as supporters of the DPJ rose from a precarious 14.7% to a more steady 19.3%, while the number of those calling themselves supporters of the LDP declined from 25.9% to 23.3%. This is the first significant reversal of the trends on these two figures for many months – and seems to reflect a renewed hope on the part of the engaged segment of the electorate that under a new prime minister the DPJ will provide the country with some direction.
As for the disengaged segment of the populace, it remains disengaged. Those answering either "I support no party" or "I don’t know" were 41.9 % of respondents in the last poll, 40.7% in the latest poll.
The responses to the final question in the Japan Times Online report beg the question, "Are the voters rabid believers in the power of a social norm prohibiting conflict, eternal optimists or merely unobservant?" When asked, "What kind of administration should exist under the new prime minister?" the answers were, as noted above, 66.5% in favor of the opposition parties linking up with the ruling coalition to cooperate on specific pieces of legislation and 19.7% in favor of a grand coalition linking the DPJ and the LDP (the numbers for the two propositions in the July poll were 51.7% and 30.7%, respectively). As for the fraction of the respondents who wanted the present situation of a DPJ-led government to continue, only 5.5% were in favor it.
Folks, folks, folks, what two-thirds of you want the parties to do is what the parties have been trying to do since the House of Councillors election in July of last year. The piecemeal cooperation strategy has not worked out. It may be the case that an amazing number of you attribute this failure to Prime Minister Kan himself, for when the Kyodo pollsters asked their respondents how much they appreciate the achievements of the 14 months of the Kan administration, the answers were:
Greatly appreciate 2.0%
Appreciate to a certain degree 30.0%
Tend to not appreciate 45.5%
Absolutely do not appreciate 21.5%
Amazing what the purported lack of leadership from a man can do to a country.
Then again, we live in the era of Koizumi nostalgia, forgetting that during his tenure, Koizumi was running against the unpopular political legacy of his own party. He also had a few other advantages including parliamentary majorities in both Houses or a supermajority in the House of Representatives and an economy buoyed by exports to rapidly expanding economies in China and the United States. Kan has not and his successor will not have such advantages.
Wish Kan's successor good luck.
* Why am I reproducing these articles here in full? Because Japanese news outlets sever their links within days of a story’s appearance. The practice is of course idiotic, as it assures that the news as it was reported by the news source will vanish from the intellectual debate.
** Having numbers beyond the decimal point is ludicrous, given the margin of error in these polls. Usually I round off the numbers. Since I am quoting from Kyodo directly in this post, however, I am sticking with Kyodo’s version of the numbers.