Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The Momentum Conundrum

The Mainichi Shimbun and TBS are holding fast to their predictions of last week and the 10th that the Liberal Democratic Party en route to winning a stunning victory in Sunday's election. Based on data from the December 4—5 Kyodo poll and telephone polls conducted by the Mainichi Shimbun's local bureaux, the media outlets are projecting the LDP will capture 300 seats.

The other predictions (all numbers are approximate)

DPJ 70
JRA 70
New Komeito 30
Your Party 16
Tomorrow Party 10
Shinto Dai’ichi 1
Kokumin Shinto 1
Nippon Dream 0
Renaissance 0

I know what you are saying: the above adds up to 508 seats, 28 more than are actually in the House of Representatives. Like I said, these numbers are approximate. (Link – J)

Note that the figures predict that the LDP and the New Komeito will capture 330 seats, giving the two parties a supermajority in the House of Representatives. A supermajority would give an LDP-led coalition government the power to pass any legislation, overriding the decisions or inaction of the House of Councillors. The only government activity still held up by the "twisted" state of the Diet would be major appointments, such as the selection of a replacement for Bank of Japan Governor Shirakawa Masaaki.

The methodology used to generate these numbers is most likely not unsound, taking into account historical patterns of voting, the current plurality the LDP has in the public opinion polls, head-to-head competition in between DPJ candidates and candidates of the breakaway Tomorrow Party and an expected low level of voter turnout. NHK's most recent poll finds 63% of respondents saying they will definitely vote, a 7 point drop from the equivalent figure in 2009. (Link – J).

Nevertheless there is a problem: a lack of a clear move toward the LDP in the opinion polls. Given the LDP’s lead and the supposed disgust the electorate feels toward the feckless rule of the DPJ, we should be seeing a shift toward the LDP in the national polls as voting day approaches. However, as the post of yesterday indicated, polls are not showing any sustained momentum toward the LDP – even if one extends the timeline back to June, immediately prior to Ozawa Ichiro's departure from the DPJ (Link).

Where is the kuki of kuki ga yomenai (a.k.a. "KY"), the zeitgeist which would encourage the undecided to hop aboard the LDP's bandwagon?

Adding to the mystery was last night’s report last night on NHK News 9 program on the prime minister's campaigning all around the country on behalf of DPJ candidates. The reporting was so soft and glowing, with the prime minister almost always shown smiling, that the result was close to an illegal campaign advertisement. Does NHK know something we do not know? Or was the network trying to cover its tail after spending the last few weeks handling LDP president Abe Shinzo with kid gloves? Does NHK want to say to the DPJ on December 17, "Hey, it wasn't us that sank your campaign..."?

As the national broadcaster, NHK has an incentive to be hypersensitive to changes in the political winds. As an organization, it is paranoid about Abe Shinzo. He and his fellow travelers have a history of interfering in NHK editorial independence. During the Abe administration, NHK indeed became AIN, the "Abductee Information Network," cramming in programming about the Japanese abducted by DPRK operatives during the 1970s where it had no business being.

So last night's broadcast was either a harbinger or an "Asta la vista, baby."

For insertion in the "Really?" file, cross-referenced with the momentum conundrum, is the news item, also reported by the Mainichi Shimbun, that early voting is down sharply from 2009. As of Monday, one week before voting day, 2,549,501 citizens had voted early. This is a 17% drop in participation in the early voter program over 2009, when 3,055,634 voters had turned in ballots one week prior to the election. (Link)

Public opinion polls find reduced enthusiasm for voting..and around half of the voters undecided as to whom they want as their representatives...and fewer voters are taking advantage of early voting.

I wonder how those three facts fit together.

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