Monday, July 08, 2013

The July 21, 2013 Election - Abe, His Boots Are Made For Walkin'

These boots are made for walkin’
And that's just what they'll do
One of these days these boots
Are gonna walk all over you...

- Nancy Sinatra, "These Boots Are Made for Walkin'" (1966)
In real life, Prime Minister Abe Shinzo is flying to and being driven around the country. On Saturday, he campaigned in four prefectures -- Kyoto, Nara, Shiga and Osaka -- after starting out the day in the departure lounge at Tokyo's Haneda Airport with what looks like -- horrors! -- a Nikkei Shimbun on his lap. (Please don't tell Watanabe Tsuneo -- Link)

In the world of the Liberal Democratic Party, however, Abe Shinzo is walking around the country, or more properly, in and around Tokyo and its neighboring prefectures. (Link - YouTube)

Why does he walk with his back to us, aside from the practical reason that it is easier to have a hair double than a face double? Is he our boss and we his underlings, trailing in his wake? Is he our leader, whom we must follow, despite our being at times in not quite the right outfits for the surroundings?

With the great man's head of hair, still jet black at 58 (How does he do it? - question is facetious) we visit a modern office complex, vegetable plots, what looks like an iron ore facility, mixed farmland and suburban housing (it looks like Kanagawa Prefecture, near Oiso or Odawara), through the halls of the Prime Minister's Residential Quarters (See? He isn't afraid of ghosts!), down a Tokyo back alley (I would say in Tokyo's Minato Ward) and in the company of two Special Police officers in a parking structure (What is he trying to say here? No fear of assassins?).

We see Abe's face for the first time, from below (where else could we be, in relation to him?) as he strides through the gray awfulness that is Japanese bureaucrat offices (I would say this inside the Finance Ministry...but I have never been therein). Then we are back behind the man, going up what looks like a staircase out of the subway at Kasumigaseki, running upward with him toward the light.

In the last part of the commercial we are very definitely in Minato Ward, on a rooftop in high-rise condominium-clogged Shibaura (the area on Tokyo's bayfront where a glut of these high-priced condos led to a fierce competition in between realtors which came to be known as "the Wangan Senso"). The view is toward the Rainbow Bridge and Odaiba -- though there is no obvious candidate for the building from which the shot is taken.

Over the scene appears the promise that "the feelings of progress and growth, with those hands" -- meaning the the hands of the viewers, not the PM -- that the people will be able to sense the results of current government policies, soon.

[The prime minister is fixated upon on people's own hands. His repeated wish regarding constitutional revision is to have a document written "by our own hands."]

We end the trip with a backdrop of the view in the opposite direction, toward Roppongi Hills, with the PM again facing us.

Then there is the PM's voiceover through the commercial.

"A new Japan is beginning to move."

"Step by step, with assurance."

"In health and vitality, with strength."

"Toward a safe Japan."

"We will protect Japan."

"We will push Japan forward."

"We will take Japan back. The LDP."

Is it just me, are the promises of security a little overdone? Progress one can promise -- but safety? (Trying telling that to the Pacific and North American plates.)

And are the promises of health and strength, aren't they just a little too self-referential for Abe, with his record of debilitating ulcerative collitis? Or do we need reassurance that he will not collapse this time?

Finally, what are the voters supposed to make of this "We will take Japan back. The LDP" business? The slogan made perfect sense in December, when the government was in the hands of the opposition. But the LDP, in coalition with the New Komeito, now controls the government. If we are to take the non-snigger inducing interpretation of Abe and Company's promise to "take Japan back" (Nippon o, torimodosu), the only folks they can take Japan back from is themselves.

Which indicates that Nippon o, torimodosu means...

The extensive use of the back of the PM's head and the relatively limited set of locations indicates that no one took the making of this commercial too seriously. The scenes with hidden and potential double meanings are too many to be coincidental. The walk down in the hallway of the Old Prime Minister's Residence, for example, takes on the ghost story -- but only, of course, for those who know what the interior of the old Residence looks like.

The whole "walking through Japan" theme has to be a riff on Democratic Party of Japan leader Kaieda Banri's much derided "Walking" poster released in the run up for this election (Link - J). Abe and Co. seem be feeling so comfortable (and why should they not be, given the results in the public opinion polls?) that they are taking chances, throwing the base some red meat, poking the crippled DPJ and its lame leader.

At least that is the way it looks from where I am, which is behind.


Later - Despite the close relationship in between the current administration and the Yomuri Shimbun, photos of Abe Shinzo and Watanabe Tsuneo together are rather hard to find. The only significant one in Google Images is this one. Of course, it is a doozy of the mutual back scratching genre, with Abe in between his two People's Honor Award honorees, both of whom were superstars for the Yomiuri Giants, with Chief Cabinet Secretary Suga Yoshihide and Watanabe sitting together right behind Matsui Hideki.

Later still - Pravda-by-the-Palace argues that the LDP and the New Komeito remain wary of slacking off or appearing to be overconfident. (Link)

Sorry...but this election is in the bag. The LDP will win almost every single-seat district. It will win at least one seat in all of the two seat districts and two in where it is running two candidates in the three-, four- and five-seat districts. The New Komeito will pick up at least a seat everywhere it is running a candidate.

The few remaining seats will the subject of bitter struggles in between the DPJ, the Japan Communist Party, the Japan Restoration Party and the Your Party. Based on a poll of 30,000 voters (now there's a sample!) the Mainichi Shimbun is predicting the LDP will win around 70 seats outright (Link - J) -- i.e. the party will be in the position to reel in a handful of independent or conservative opposition lawmakers and be able to say, "Hasta la vista, baby" to the New Komeito. The LDP will not actually sever relations with the New Komeito because the party faces a significant breakaway this fall of lawmakers opposing Japan's participation in Trans Pacific Partnership negotiations. However, having at least the theoretical potential to dump the more reticent and passive New Komeito will significantly alter the balance of power in between the LDP and its ruling coalition partner.


jaichind said...

I do not see LDP getting 70 seats. Even if LDP candidates in 2- 3- 4- 5- seat districts, that is just 18. Of the remaining 31 1-seat districts, I can see LDP winning 29-30 of them. That is 48 seats. For LDP to get to 70 it would have to win 22 out of the 48 PR seats which means it has to win at least around 43% of the PR vote. Even in the 2001 landslide LDP only got 38% of the PR vote. Turnout will be low this time which actually will push up JCP and NKP vote shares making it even less likely LDP will cross 40% in PR vote. Much more likely is LDP will win around 65-66 seats.

MTC said...

jaichind -

The LDP is polling at around 42% support among the full electorate (the Kyodo poll is an outlier; I do not know why). Knock out those who do not show up at the polls on July 21, and the LDP is looking at 50% of the PR votes cast. Given the gearing of the d'Hondt system, it should easily win at least 22 PR seats.