Monday, May 31, 2010

The Futenma Failure Takes Its Toll on the DPJ and Boosts the SDP

Points to note in the latest Kyodo and Fuji Sankei public opinion polls.

Cabinet - In the Kyodo poll, support for the Hatoyama Cabinet has again dropped, this time below the crucial 20% line. Some 19% of those polled still support the Cabinet, down from 21% last month. Those not supporting the Cabinet soared, however, to 73%, up from 64% in the poll taken a month ago.

When asked why they do not support the Cabinet, 25% said it was because that they could not trust the Prime Minister and 36% said it was because they have no confidence in Prime Minister as a leader. Other reasons cited were having no confidence in the Cabinet's economic plans (13%) and no confidence in the goverment's ability to pursue reform (6%). Other options did not poll above 4%.

As for the Fuji Sankei Group pol, it finds found similar support numbers: 19% supporting the Cabinet and 74% not supporting it.

Political Party - When asked which party they support, 21% of respondents in the Kyodo said the Democratic Party of Japan while 22% said the Liberal Democratic Party. This marks the first time the support numbers for the LDP have exceeded those for the DPJ since last summer's House of Representatives election. The upstart Your Party (Minna no To), the reformist default party, has the support of 11% of the electorate.

As for which party the voters will be casting their votes in this summer's House of Councillor's election, the Kyodo poll finds 20% of the electorate voting for the DPJ, 21% voting for the LDP, 11% voting for Your Party.

The Fuji Sankei poll only asked its subjects which party they inted to vote for in proportional party vote in this summer's House of Councillor's election. The numbers there are even more stark: only 13% will cast their votes for the ruling DPJ and 18% for the LDP. Oddly, the Fuji Sankei poll finds a only 5% of its respondents ready to cast their votes for Your Party - the same as the number declaring that they will vote for the New Komeito.

In line with predictions made last week, the Social Democratic Party, which voted yesterday to leave the ruling coalition following the firing on Friday of its leader Fukushima Mizuho from her Cabinet post, seems to be reaping a P.R. windfall from its principled stance against the government's plan to move elements of Marine Corps Air Station Futenma to Henoko. Whereas slightly fewer than 2% of voters declared themselves supporters of the SDP in last month's poll, the party now enjoys the support of 5% of the electorate - vaulting the SDP into fourth place among organized parties in the Kyodo poll. As this doubling of support is the first significant movement in the support numbers for the Social Democrats since last year, one can only assume it is due to the SDP's stubborn unwillingness to countenance the Prime Minister's failing to honor his promise to move all of Futenma outside of Okinawa Prefecture.

The Kyodo poll finds a similar jump, from less than 2% last month to over 5% today, in those who say they will cast their votes for the SDP. Oddly, the Fuji Sankei poll finds fewer than 1% of its respondents ready to cast their votes for the SDP. However, the lack of support for the SDP in the Fuji Sankei may be simply a reflection of the poll's having been conducted on May 27, before Fukushima made clear she would not budge on a vote for a Cabinet Decision, leaving the Prime Minister no choice but to sack her.

- The Futenma Climbdown - The people's view of moving MCAS Futenma remains unchanged despite the Prime Minister's heartfelt plea for understanding on Friday. In the Kyodo poll, 66% of respondents do not appreciate (hyoka shinai) the government's plan to move MCAS Futenma to Henoko. Only 25% say they do value what the government has done. This finding emphasizes what seems to be permanent feature of the political landscape: a two-thirds majority of Japanese voters believing unacceptable the continued stationing of the U.S. Marines forces associated with Futenma on the island of Okinawa, no matter the escalation of tensions on the Korean Peninsula and the increased number of incidents at sea involving the People's Liberation Army Navy and Japan's Maritime Self Defense Forces and Coast Guard. A majority of the voters still want Futenma somewhere else, even after seven months of fruitless searches for an alternative to the Roadmap.

All in all, a terrible sets of results for Prime Minister Hatoyama and the DPJ. In normal times, discussions would be underway to find a way for the Prime Minister and the top party leaders to step aside. However, with the end of the regular Diet session on June 16 and a likely calling of the election on June 23, there is simply no time to go through all the requirements needed to replace the PM and the party leadership before the currently projected July 11 House of Councillors election.

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