A little less than two weeks ago, Prime Minister Noda Yoshihiko decided to cut short the debate on the bond issuance and the electoral reform bills, accepting from the Liberal Democratic Party and the New Komeito the votes for the bond issuance bill they had already agreed to give him. In return, he gave away a one-in-a-decade chance to reform the electoral districts, forcing his party to contest the election in LDP-designed districts. He also received the verbal promises that the LDP would be serious about the advisory commission on welfare and pension reforms and the submission in the regular Diet session of a bill cutting the number of Diet members.
The wisdom of this decidedly unbalanced exchange has yet to manifest itself.
This morning'g public opinion poll results are dismal for the prime minister and his party. Despite the public's having had two weeks to think seriously about the horror of a second Abe premiership -- bolstered by the release of an LDP manifesto showing that the "Friends of Shinzo" have learned exactly nothing in the five years since their being hoisted from power -- a flow from the LDP to the Democratic Party of Japan is nowhere in sight.
For the all important "Which party do you intend to vote for in the proportional bloc half of the ballot? question, the reported results of this weekend's polling and the results from a week ago are:
LDP 19% (24%)
DPJ 8% (11%)
JRA 10% (8%)*
New Komeito 4% (4%)
Your Party 3% (2%)
People's Life First 2% (1%)
Don't know 45% (43%)
The Asahi Shimbun
LDP 23% (22%)
DPJ 13% (15%)
JRA 9% (6%)
New Komeito 4% (4%)
Your Party 3% (1%)
People's Life First 2% (0%)
Don't know 41% (46%)
LDP 25% (26%)
DPJ 10% (13%)
JRA 14% (13%)*
New Komeito 6% (4%)
Your Party 2% (2%)
People's Life First 2% (2%)
The results are a big pick-me-up for the Japan Restoration Association. We shall see if Hashimoto Toru's indelicate unveiling of his unserious approach to politics -- suggesting to the Your Party's Watanabe Yoshimi that districts where the JRA and the Your Party are both hoping to run candidates be divvied up by the two of them competing in "Rock, Paper, Scissors" -- represents a lasting hiccup or just another Monday morning's tempest in a coffee mug.
The poll numbers are a mixed bag for the LDP. It still has its on its two-to-one edge in most surveys but dropped by 5 points week-on-week in the Kyodo poll.
However, it is the chins of DPJ Diet seat holders that will be sunken today. A negative trend is visible across the board, bolstering the veracity of anecdotal accounts of DPJ big wheels speaking before tiny, unenthusiastic crowds.
Of course, these national trend polls mask significant variation in the regional bloc numbers. The DPJ remains viable in the Northern Kanto Bloc and to a lesser extent the Tohoku Region. The LDP dominates in the Southern Kanto, Joetsu, Tokai, Chugoku, Shikoku and Kyushu regions. The JRA is powerhouse in the making in the Kinki Region, while remaining a decidedly minor force inside Tokyo (no surprises there).
There is still no consensus as to just what the prime minister thought he was doing when he challenged Abe Shinzo two weeks ago during party leader Debate Time. For those inclined toward conspiracy theory, Noda, sick of the leftist and anti-free trade elements in the DPJ, called the election so that the center left would be erased in a rightward wave. Equally plausible is the assertion that Noda, like Abe in 2007, had a mistaken faith in the voters' appreciating his policies. The calling of the election was thus a simple miscalculation, a dooming of the DPJ to death from policy wonkery.
I am partial to both explanations.
Later - No, I do not believe the "just so" story that Prime Minister Noda called the election in order to short-circuit a party revolt against his leadership whilst he was away attending the ASEAN summit. Noda is not an African potentate, for Amaterasu's sake.
* Totals for Japan Restoration Association are sum of JRA and Party of the Sun for November 17-18 surveys
Tokyo Shimbun of 26 November 2012
The Asahi Shimbun poll:
Yomiuri Shimbun poll: