Monday, November 05, 2012

How Much Longer Can Noda Hang On Or The LDP Keep Still?

The Yomiuri Shimbun, Kyodo and the TBS network released the results of new public opinion polls this morning. The results are, as can be expected, miserable news for Noda Yoshihiko and his government.

Cabinet support (previous poll in [ ])

Kyodo - Nov. 3-4 [Oct. 1-2]
Support 18% [29%]

Yomiuri - Nov. 3-4 [Oct. 1-2]
Support 19% [34%]

TBS - Nov. 3-4 [Oct. 1-2]
Support 25% [30%]

For those wanting the rose-colored glasses view, after the ridiculous drama of the way-too-familiar-with-the-yakuza-and-other-scandals-tainted Tanaka Keishu having to be pushed out of the office of Minister of Law (Link), one could hardly expect the Cabinet's support numbers to stay stable. Who indeed could not lose confidence in the prime minister's judgment after his appointing of a man with flashing red light over his head (DANGER – LOST HIS DIET SEAT IN RECRUIT SCANDAL) to be the head of the nation's legal system?

However, for those wishing to look upon the numbers with a critical eye, a fall in Cabinet support below 20% level has historically triggered a deathwatch. No matter how tough Noda is -- and he is tough, perhaps the most iron-bottomed of the prime ministers since Sato Eisaku – he will bombarded with calls for his resignation. The Liberal Democratic Party and New Komeito will call for a resignation and a dissolution of the Diet, the unconstitutionality of a House of Representatives election be damned.

More dangerous for Noda than the screams of the opposition parties and the pompous thundering of the editorialists and pundits is the possibility of coup within his own party. However, there are good reasons to believe that despite the fall in Cabinet support, the Democratic Party of Japan will stand beside their prime minister.

First, the DPJ just had a leadership election five weeks ago, which re-elected Noda head of the party by a wide margin. Declaring their choice stupid so soon after having made it would be fatal for the electoral chances of the DPJ’s Diet members and for the party as whole.

Second, while the numbers for the Cabinet crashed, the numbers for the DPJ, both the support numbers and the far more important "Which party will you vote for in the proportional seat ballot?" numbers, stayed stable. Meanwhile, the numbers for the LDP declined.

Which party do you support?

Kyodo - Nov. 3-4 [Oct. 1-2]
DPJ 12% [12%]
LDP 26% [30%]

TBS - Nov. 3-4 [Oct. 1-2]
DPJ 12% [12%]
LDP 22% [26%]

Which party will you cast your proportional ballot for?

Kyodo - Nov. 3-4 [Oct. 1-2]
DPJ 12% [12%]
LDP 28% [31%]

TBS - Nov. 3-4 [Oct. 1-2]
DPJ 12% [12%]
LDP 29% [35%]

The LDP decline can be attributed to a wavering of support in the face of Ishihara Shintaro's return to national politics. Ishihara's successful courtship of the Sunrise party has injected life into what was a dead party – and I mean dead in a real sense. Support for the Sunrise Party rose from 0% to 2% in the Kyodo poll and from 0% to 1% in the TBS poll. The rest of the LDP's losses seem to have bled into Hashimoto Toru's Japan Restoration Party, with which Ishihara wants to ally, or into the No Party column.

The LDP also received some bad news in the "Who should be prime minister?" imaginary vote (imaginary because the people do not pick the prime minister) as Abe Shinzo's numbers fell along with those of Prime Minister Noda.

Who should be prime minister, Noda Yoshihiko or Abe Shinzo?

Kyodo - Nov. 3-4 [Oct. 1-2]
Noda 29% [N/A]
Abe 40% [N/A]

Yomiuri - Nov. 3-4 [Oct. 1-2]
Noda 25% [34%]
Abe 39% [44%]

TBS - Nov. 3-4 [Oct. 1-2]
Noda 24% [29%]
Abe 40% [45%]

Confusion still reigns regarding what the unconstitutionality of a House of Representatives election means. That a plurality of voters can be found who want an election before the year is out further demonstrates that the news media's intentional failure to explain the mechanics of redrawing district boundaries has succeeded in its intended effect: keeping relevant the nattering nonsense of an election's being just around the corner.

Do you think an election can be held despite the Supreme Court's having ruled the district boundaries unconstitutional, or should the boundaries be reformed first, before the holding of an election?

Can be held 35%
Must be reformed 53%

Can be held 35%
Must be reformed 49%

When should an election be held?

During this Diet session 34%
Early on in the Regular Diet Session 34%

Before the year is out 47%
Early on in the Regular Diet Session 14%

Before the year is out 42%
By March of next year 33%

One must note in passing the odd phrasing of he constitutionality question and the consequent odd responses. To ask voters whether they think it is all right or not to have an election, as opposed to whether it would be legal or not, injects the individual voter's personal likes or dislikes into a place they have no business being.

If Prime Minister Noda needs talking points, there were questions where the public supported him.

Was the majority of the members of the House of Councillors' refusal to allow the Prime Minister to deliver his policy address to them (Link) appropriate or not? (TBS)

Appropriate 30%
Inappropriate 58%

The LDP and the New Komeito are holding up action on the bond issuance bill until they receive from Prime Minister Noda a public promise on a date certain for an election. What do feel about this? (Kyodo)

The Diet should pass the bond issuance bill, regardless of the Prime Minister making a public promise on the election or not 53%
The Diet should pass the bond issuance bill if and only if the Prime Minister has made a public promise on the election 28%

Noda is clearly in more trouble now than he was on Friday. While the DPJ is unlikely to replace him any time soon, the danger of more DPJ members jumping ship has increased -- though the stability of the party support numbers are an argument against such an exodus.

Nevertheless, a number of DPJ members are certainly wondering whether or not they would be better off as independents or as supplicants at Hashimoto Toru's door. Hashimoto has given notice that he has a limit of 15 sitting Diet members in the Japan Restoration Party, which means enough room remains in the JRP for the number of DPJ defectors needed to drop the DPJ-People's New Party ruling coalition below the 50% level in the House of Representatives.

DPJ defectors could also seek refuge in parties other than the JRP. However, given the incredible multiplication of micro-parties and the resumed viability of the LDP, trying one's luck in one of the micro-parties is likely to end very badly.

As for the LDP, it should take the drop in the Noda Cabinet's support numbers and the drops in its popularity numbers and in Abe Shinzo's "Who should be prime minister?" numbers in stride. The question is if an enervated LDP can or not. It takes very little to trigger the panic response in the LDP under normal circumstances. In an Abe Shinzo-led LDP, the barrier between reaction and overreaction is tissue thin.

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