Wednesday, March 21, 2012

OK, So Maybe We Are Wrong

Let us assume that Ozawa Ichiro is right, that the public wants the Democratic Party of Japan to fulfill its campaign promises of 2009 -- and that unless the DPJ returns to the true path (that, we shall not forget, Ozawa authored) by the time the next elections come around, the party.

Or, let us assume that Tanigaki Sadakazu, Ishihara Nobuteru and Oshima Tadamori are right, that the nation is sick to death of the bumbling and stumbling of the DPJ, particularly its inability to come to internal agreement on the government's major policy plank, the revitalization of the social welfare compact through a rise in the consumption tax.

Or, let us assume that the league of anonymous analysts are right, that the government is incapable of making the significant changes Japan needs to invigorate itself, meaning that Noda Yoshihiko is heading downhill and out the door the same way his last five predecessors have.

Then why in the dickens are the support levels of this Cabinet rising at this time? The Kyodo News poll of this morning finds support for the Cabinet rising to 32% from 29% the month before. This finding echoes the Jiji Press finding of cabinet support at 27%, a rise of 3 points from a month earlier (J) and NHK's finding of cabinet support at 33%, up 2 points from a month earlier (link expired). A week ago, the Yomiuri Shimbun found cabinet support at 35%, 5 points up from a month earlier (J). A week before that Nippon Television found a similar 5 point rise in public support for the cabinet (link expired).

Now these moves, while in sync with one another, may not represent an updraft for the Noda government. For all we know, they may represent a firming of confidence in government in general in response to the upwelling of feelings of national unity over the 3/11 anniversary. The politics-news-entertainment complex may have been pulling its punches pre-anniversary, giving the government a breather from the usual battering it faces, allowing the electorate to have a brighter view of the present.

Still, if the Noda government were really messing up, or the country on the way to a political train wreck, one would expect at least some polls to show declines in cabinet support.

Obviously, that is not happening.

Indeed, even more reassuring the PM and his government should be the fall in the percentage those holding negative views of the Cabinet: down 5 points in the Kyodo poll, down 3 points in the Jiji Press poll, down 5 points in the Yomiuri poll.

On the all-important question of which party the electorate will vote for in the bloc proportional vote (noting, of course, that a national survey does not reflect the strength of a particular party's appeal in specific blocs) the prime minister's party still trails the Liberal Democratic Party. The Kyodo poll finds the split to be 20% for the DPJ versus 23% for the LDP: the Yomiuri poll finds find the split to be 17% versus 21% (J).

For both parties, the real pain will be in the Kinki bloc, where the Yomiuri poll found that the top vote getter would be Hashimoto Toru's Ishin no kai receving 24% of the committed vote, with the LDP second at 18% and the DPJ third at 10%. (J)

The Ishin no kai's participation in the next House of Representatives election, even while not generating direct support of greater than a quarter of the voters in its home region, is still popular overall. In the Yomiuri poll, 58% of the electorate has positive expectations over the Ishin no kai's participation in national politics. In a poll the Mainichi Shimbun conducted in the first week of March, 61% of the electorate had favorable views of Ishin no kai participation in national politics (J).

Today's Kyodo polls frames the question of the Ishin no kai's rise and the possible formation of a "true conservative" party under the command of some combination of Ishihara Shintaro, Hiranuma Takeo and Kamei Shizuka in a different way: if the government could be rearranged according to your wishes, what would be its constituent parts?

A government with the DPJ at its heart 8%
A government with the LDP at its heart 13%
A grand coalition government of the DPJ and the LDP 23%
A new structure based on a realignment of the political world 38%
Other 4%
No opinion 12%

(due to rounding, the above does not add up to 100%)

A grand coalition, which the press has been talking up ad nauseum over the weekend after Deputy Prime Minister and designated go-between with the opposition parties Okada Katsuya purportedly talked about a grand DPJ-LDP coalition over several bills --- an offer Okada denies making, not that he might not be making it at some future time, mind you (J) does not set the public's heart a-flutter. The large number of persons wishing for a whole new political world, together with the miserably low numbers for a future DPJ-centered government may light a fire under the tails of some in the DPJ to accept the Noda government's already significant openness to the opinions of the opposition, particularly the New Komeito but the LDP as well (the other opposition parties might just as well not exist).

As to when the electorate next wants a shot at choosing its representatives, those desiring to have an election next year outnumber those wanting an election this year 66% to 27%, with the plurality (44%) wanting the current House of Representatives to serve out their full terms, again according to Kyodo News.

So we are on course for a double (House of Representatives - House of Councillors) election next year in mid-summer -- which is good because the Diet has yet to tackle the black hole in the nation's voting systems, the methods of electing the House of Representatives and the House of Councillors both being unconstitutional.

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