Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Faith in Numbers (2)

Really don't mind if you sit this one out
Your words but a whisper...your deafness a shout!

- Ian Anderson, "Thick As A Brick" (1972)

It is the night of Tanabata, when the star-crossed lovers meet

When we left off 10 days ago, the DPJ was in a position in the proportional vote to at least repeat its performance of 2004, where it won 19 seats with 37.7% of the vote. Due to the proliferation of parties bursting out of the LDP these last few years, the DPJ will need only 35.7% of the final vote to match its 2004.

Number of seats from the simulation of the D'Hondt system apportionment.

DPJ 19
LDP 11
New Komeito 6
Your Party 6
Japan Communist Party 3
Democratic Socialist Party 2
Sunrise 1

Total = 48

With 19 seats from the proportional list, the DPJ is a third of the way from its ultimate goal of 60 seats, which together with the 61 seats it holds from the 2007 electoral cycle, would give the party 50% of the seats and thus control of the House of Councillors.

With control of the House of Councillors with the 307 out of 480 seats the party holds in the House of Representatives, the DPJ would be in the position to pass unencumbered most any piece of legislation it might desire. It would be able to do so for three years as the next House of Representatives election need not be held until mid-2013, when the House of Councillors has its next election.

Opening the door for:

1) a radical restructuring of Japan in line with the values of white collar suburban and urban voters, rather than rural or industry-based voting blocs

2) a great span of time for the opposition Liberal Democratic Party to further split into pieces

The DPJ certainly wishes to secure these two advantages. In order to do so, DPJ candidates have to win 41 of the 73 district seats up for election. The newspapers are laying down bets that the DPJ cannot possibly succeed in this endeavor.

While certainly difficult, it is not impossible, given:

1) Ozawa Ichiro's three years of wandering the hinterlands cultivating local primary industry, small business, professional group and religious order votes the DPJ had theretofore ignored.

2) the lack of a clear reason to vote for a specific LDP district candidate other than to prevent the DPJ from having a majority in the House of Councillors.

3)the end of official cooperation between the New Komeito and the LDP.

The end of the LDP-New Komeito coalition throws a monkey wrench into almost any calculation of potential results of this elections.

Here's how. The New Komeito has 8 million dedicated voters who will turn out on July 11, typhoon or shine. In the proportional half of the vote they will vote for the party or for particular members of the party.

However, except in Saitama, Tokyo and Osaka, New Komeito voters have no one to vote for in the district elections. This is because the party, mentally fried by the 2009 House of Representatives election where every single one of its district candidates lost his or her seat, has put up a district candidate only in those three prefectures. It has no official candidates anywhere else. Now a great fraction of New Komeito's total 8 million (about 13% of the likely final total national vote) live in just those three prefectures. Tokyo hosts about 825,000 New Komeito voters; Osaka about 790,000 and Saitama about 580,000. New Komeito voters are also extremely numerous in Kanagawa (690,000) and Aichi (580,000) Prefectures, but are not so numerous to able to elect candidates in these districts on their own.

Subtracting these huge numbers of Komeito voters living in these core city prefectures from the 8 million total, one is left with some 4.5 million votes, scattered around the remaining 42 prefectures in varying densities.

That's a lot of votes, and in prefectures where the margin of victory is 30,000 votes or less, the lack of New Komeito support could be fatal for the hopes of an LDP candidate.

The importance of New Komeito voters for the LDP was established in 2009. Except in the districts where the New Komeito was running its own candidates, the 8 million received divine guidance to vote for the LDP, and 7 million of them seem to have responded - providing the LDP with about a quarter of the votes in received in the district elections.

There is nothing wrong with this kind of vote swapping -- except that it turned out to have been pointless. In the 2009 House of Representatives election, even with the 7 million New Komeito voters voting for the LDP's district candidates, the LDP got slaughtered.

This time around New Komeito voters have been no clear, public instructions from on high as to whom they should vote for, other than the New Komeito candidates in the three districts listed above. The print media is saying that local prefectural branches of the New Komeito are leaning toward supporting the local LDP candidate.

The general theory being espoused is that by cooperating with the LDP again, the New Komeito will prevent the DPJ from winning enough seats to have a simple majority. Indeed, with the present sour mood toward the DPJ and the support of the New Komeito, the LDP and Your Party (Minna no To) could even steal seats from the DPJ's present totals.

With its seat totals far below what it needs to move legislation through the Diet smoothly*, the DPJ will have to go on a search for coalition partners. Your Party's Watanabe Yoshimi has stated his party will not form a coalition with DPJ. Which would leave the New Komeito as the bridesmaid of choice for the DPJ.

Do you see the problem with this theory, why is is dafter than Daft Punk?

Here is the supposed strategy

1) rule Japan in coalition with the LDP for 10 years
2) dump association with LDP after devastating 2009 House of Representatives losses by both coalition partners
3) make goo-goo eyes on television and in the Diet toward the DPJ
4) thank your lucky stars you are no longer LDP associates as the LDP sheds its most attractive members and fails to capitalize on the serious problems hounding the DPJ's top leaders
5) realize the Post-Hatoyama, Post-Ozawa New Look DPJ is into fiscal stringency and curtailing social welfare payments - which are poison to your party
6) surreptitiously cooperate with the LDP again in the district elections half of the House of Councillors election
7) either

a) watch the collaboration fail to make a change, as the LDP flames out in defeat
b) watch the collaboration succeed in preventing the DPJ from winning its sought-for majority
8) wait by the telephone patiently for the call that is sure to come from DPJ headquarters begging the New Komeito to become the DPJ's new coalition partner


It is step #8 that I am having trouble with right now. It is beyond my capacity to imagine that the DPJ, its hopes and dreams having been thwarted by an LDP aided by the New Komeito, will turn around and ask the New Komeito to be its partner.

So no matter what the evening sports newspapers are saying, the New Komeito cannot be reviving cooperation with the LDP -- not if it wants to be part of a post-election order...and if the LDP is going to try to defend its 25 current districts without the support of the New Komeito machine, it will fail.

So what are my predictions for the results for this election?

Worst case scenario - The DPJ defends the 36 district seats it now holds. Together with the 19 seats it will win the proportion vote, it will be at 5 seats short of the magical 60 it needs for a control of the House. It will gain that control through absorption of independents and breakaway members of other parties -- or by making Watanabe Yoshimi an offer he cannot refuse (Financial Services Minister?).

Best case scenario - the DPJ wins 60-to-62 seats -- 19-to-20 in the proportional and 41-to-43 in the districts.

Going at this backwards, the ultimate maximum for the DPJ in the districts is 61 out of the total 73 seats - the total number of district candidates the DPJ is running. The party has no candidate in angry Okinawa -- where the terms "DPJ candidate" and "snowball's chance in hell" would probably go very well together. The party is otherwise offering a candidate every other in the single-seat districts except Kagawa, where it, the Social Democratic Party and People's New Party are supporting an independent.

In its most audacious bet, the DPJ is running two candidates in all but 2 of the 12 two-seat districts: everywhere but Fukuoka and Niigata. In Fukuoka, the New Komeito branch seems to be cooperating openly with the LDP candidate, making his election a given. The DPJ seems to have conceded there was no point in fielding a second candidate. In Niigata, the DPJ's main opponent and likely top vote getter is a member of the former coalition partner SDP.

The DPJ is fielding two candidates in the three-seat districts of Chiba, Kanagawa, Saitama, Aichi, though only a single candidate in Osaka. In Tokyo, it is has two candidates vying for the five seats available.

So in its drive to secure control of the House of Councillors, the DPJ has to win two thirds of the seats it is contesting.

Or, looking at the same problem from the opposite direction, the DPJ can withstand up 20 errors in electoral strategy and still come out on top.

Against an opposition whose top member's claim to fame is that under its rule, the country was run into the ditch it finds itself in.

I think the voters will by July 11 figure out where their interests lie.

I have faith in their numbers.


* "Smooth Diet relations" being an inexplicable fetish of media correspondents and commentators.


Anonymous said...

Michael, I have a question.

Are you aware of any tradition in Japan which allows ministers to be "outside" of Cabinet? Traditionally in Westminster systems this was something that was done when you wanted someone to take on a ministerial level administrative role but you did not want them to be in the core of decision making for the government itself. I know in NZ we have since going to our Mixed PR-FPP system where minority and coalition governments have become more common, started to use this arrangement much more.

Essentially, you give a party which does not want to enter into a formal coalition agreement, or wants to keep their distance within a coalition, a post or two outside the Cabinet. This frees them from having to bear Collective Responsibility of cabinet decision making. In practice, it does mean they can't go out of their way to attack the government, but, it does allow them to "question" the government on matters outside of their portfolio.

I wonder if such a tradition exists in Japan as it might be a solution for those parties trying to not be tainted by the foul stench of the DPJ - I have not heard of it, but that might well be just me being underinformed.

Anonymous said...

Faith in numbers is one thing, faith in humanity is another.

MTC said...

sigma1 -

As far back as my memories go, all ministers of the Cabinet have been ministers in the Cabinet. I do not believe the Constitution allows any other construction.

There is discussion, however, of cooperation on policy from outside the Cabinet (内閣に参加しない政策協力) where the heads of the cooperating parties have near-ministerial influence on policy. I believe there were coalitions where one of the partners (Was it Sakigake? Ozawa's rump Liberals?) opted out of sending a minister to a Cabinet, yet pledged its cooperation-- creating a new imperative for leading parties to confirm even before negotiations begin that such wishy-washy collaborators accept at least one ministerial post.