Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Worthwhile Reads for October 3

Two essays worth reading...

1) While I find the stated positions of Abe Shinzo regarding the sexual slaves of the Imperial Forces, love of the national government nation and the options as regards the Senkakus so disturbing I cannot think dispassionately about a potential Abe premiership, others are not so hobbled by their emotions. Andrew Levidis of Kyoto University has produced a level-headed essay on Abe's foreign and security policy:

Shinzo Abe and the dream of a conservative Asia

Do not be turned off, as I initially was, by the Ivan Morris reference in the introduction. Bull through it, ignoring the glaring contradiction between the Morris thesis and the political resuscitation of Abe's career.

2) As is his wont, Okumura Jun has offered an interesting exegesis on the most recent public opinion polls and speculates why the Kyodo News poll is probably the most reliable indicator of the popularity of particular parties.

Some Thoughts around the New Noda Cabinet Polls… on the Japan Restoration Party

Okumura's theory that the voters in the less-populous prefectures are getting their news from the prefectural paper, where national political news comes from the Kyodo News wire service, has significant electoral implications, especially since the less populous prefectures are over-represented in the Diet.

The most recent polls from Kyodo, The Asahi Shimbun and the Yomiuri Shimbun repeat the truly peculiar phenomena of the polls of last week and the weekend:

i) a rise in the popularity of the Noda Cabinet,

ii) a majority of those polled having no positive expectations from Abe Shinzo and his lieutenants,

iii) the popularity of Liberal Democratic Party soaring, often to their highest levels since the August 2009 election defeat, with the percentage of those polled supporting the LDP now double the percentage supporting the Democratic Party of Japan,

iV) support levels of the DPJ remaining flat.

The results in the aggregate seem senseless. How can the LDP become so much more popular when it elects a leader the majority of those polled find unimpressive. How can the popularity of the Noda Cabinet rise while the popularity of the DPJ declines -- in every single poll?

I see two major forces as likely pushing up the LDP party support figures:

I) The "Anyone But Tanigaki Sadakazu" effect -- The fall of Tanigaki from power has brought back into the fold traditional LDP supporters among the patriotic fantabulist crowd, the social conservatives and the strong leadership worshippers. These voters, finding Hashimoto Toru a distasteful parvenu, had been hiding out among the voters on the record as supporting no party. With Tanigaki gone, these traditional LDP voters are standing up and being counted.

II) The "Let's Slap China Around" effect -- All of the LDP's candidates in the LDP presidential election, not just the winner Abe, spent weeks making loud and extravagant promises that if put in charge of the nation, they would protect Japan's territories and territorial waters from the Chinese threat, showing the Chinese that Japan cannot be pushed around.

Given that Chinese government has been ratcheting up the war of words with Japan over the Senkakus, and now sends its constabulary ships on daily violations of the territorial waters about those islands, the LDP's fantasy tough guy rhetoric has been stirring and falsely reassuring.

The key question is whether with its popularity in the 30% range and the DPJ's in the 10-15% range, does the LDP have the ability to lure disaffected members of the DPJ to vote against the Noda Cabinet in a no-confidence motion, toppling the Noda government?

The snap answer would seemingly be "Yes."

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