Monday, July 15, 2013

Do The Forces Of Constitutional Revision Have A Chance? (2)

[Part 2 of 2. Part 1 I published yesterday.]

Assuming that everything goes perfectly -- and I do mean perfectly -- for the Liberal Democratic Party in the district seat elections on July 21, and assuming its allies in constitutional revision the Japan Restoration Party and the Your Party pick up the majority of the seats remaining after one subtracts the four seats the New Komeito must/will win, the combined forces of constitutional revision will control 123 of the 161 162 seats they need to have a 2/3rds majority in the House of Councillors.

Can the forces of revision win the further 38 39 seats they need to reach the magical 161 162 total?

In addition to voting for the district candidate, voters write either the name of a party member or the name of a party on a separate ballot. These votes are tallied according to party, with the vote for the individual counted as a vote for the party with whom he or she is affiliated.

The 48 seats up for election on this separate ballot are the proportional vote. Seats are divvied up using the d’Hondt method, meaning the vote totals are divided by one, then by two, then by three..with the largest remaining result getting the next available seat.

If you do not want to think to too much about the method but just want the results, here is a great calculator (Tip of the hat to Tobias Harris of Observing Japan).

The first guess one needs to make regarding the inputs, and it is a doozy, is how many folks will show up at the polling stations on July 21. As I insinuated in a post the other day major elections of the past year have featured record-breaking or close-to-record-setting low levels of voter turnout.

The causes of the low level of voter participation in 2013 are not hard to discern:

-a secular reduction in interest in elections since electoral reforms in the 1990s,

-a reduction in interest in politics after the collapse of the credibility of the Democratic Party of Japan as an alternative to the LDP,

- the exhaustion from having had a national election and a change of government only six months earlier and local elections only a few weeks ago,

- ridiculously high support ratings for both the Cabinet and the LDP in the public opinion polls (the demoralization factor) and

- the absence of real policy choice in between the parties.

The last items does not mean that the parties are indistinguishable, for they do offer different mixes of policies. However, none of these mixes is either inspired or inspiring, leading voters more likely to choose, when they show up, the parties that can enact any policies.

To these reasons for sitting out this election out we have to add the possibility of unpleasant weather on election day actively dissuading folks from leaving their homes to go to the polling stations (this summer has been naaaaassssty!).

The number of persons casting ballots I come up with, in a brutish, what-the-hell calculus, is 48,000,000 . That is a whopping 12 million voters down from the House of Councillors elections in 2007 and 2010. It is also a greater drop than the huge fall in between the 2009 and 2012 House of Representatives elections, when 10,000,000 voters who showed up in 2009 failed to show up last year.

The voting rate in this guestimate is nevertheless still more than 44.67% recorded in the 1995 House of Councillors election. The median age of the voters has risen since 1995, and older voters vote more, so that despite all the negative forces listed above, a turnout rate of 46% (based on the latest, July 8 figure from the Ministry for General Affairs and Telecommunications of 104,780,660 persons eligible to vote) seems about right.

Now, how will these votes be divided up?

Let us make two incredibly generous assumptions to critics who find me too solicitous of the LDP, one supposition regarding the DPJ based on atmospherics and one boneheaded assertion. The first is that the LDP does no better in the vote than its current 42% rate of support in public opinion polls, despite the concentration of power the drop in voter participation gives to vote machines. The second is that centrist voters, wary of giving the LDP too much support, will give their votes to the main center-right opposition DPJ, JRP and Your Party in about equal amounts. The third is that public trust in the DPJ has sunk to the point where the Your Party and the DPJ win exactly the same number of votes. The fourth, the dumb one, is that at least 7,000,000 folks plunk down for the New Komeito and its candidates.

The voting numbers I get, in aggregate, are:

LDP 20,000,000
New Komeito 7,000,000
DPJ 5,000,000
Your Party 5,000,000
JRP 4,500,000
JCP 3,500,000
SDP 1,800,000
Other parties 1,200,000

Plugging these raw vote totals into the D’Hondt calculator, the following proportional seat distribution pops out:

LDP 22
New Komeito 7
Your Party 5
Other parties 0

The projection, biased upon the assumption of no last minute reversal of the decay of support for the DPJ, still only secures only 31 seats for the revisionists, 7 seats short of Constitutional Revision Nirvana.

The fly in the constitutional revision crowd's punch bowl is...surprise! (not really) the NEW KOMEITO. Unless the leaders of the New Komeito or That Which Cannot Be Named tell their voters to not show up on the 21st, their immobile mass will outweigh any projected "rightward shift" in favor of constitutional revision.

I invite readers to play around with the calculator, trying out higher voter turnouts and different support levels based on the public opinion survey the individual reader may fancy.

Fiddle as one might, the leap to the 161 162 seats needed for constitutional revision -- even when making assumptions equivalent to pretty much everything goes the revisionists' way on election eve -- remains just too far off.


TheStrawMan said...

Regarding New Komeito voters being told to stay home, or vote for a different party. Is that not within the realm of possibility? The New Komeito has always done as it is told by the LDP, and has always acted with the LDP's best interests at heart.

Philippe said...

Your number-crunching confirms my hunch as to why we’ve seen (heard?) much less noise around the revision of the constitution since spring: the pro-revisionists (and in particular the Abe mafia) don’t have the numbers and they know it – your numbers here and their internal polls since april/may all point in that direction.

In a way it is kinda sad and we’re worst off now. The Abe government will use its comfortable majority to push all kind of crap through (the mil. contractors will be happy, the centralist forces & bureaucracy will be strengthened), carefully balanced to keep the various LDP factions quiet while keeping the appearance that the economy is doing fine. A push for a revision of the constitution on the other hand would have set off much more polarising discussions. And eventually the undoing of the Abe government. Am I alone in thinking that a reasonably significant faction inside the LDP is less than enthusiast about the proposals on the table? In a snarky way, I would love to see Abe losing a chunk of his party in the same way Noda-san got rid of half of his party…

PS - Where are the sound trucks? Only one noise machine has ventured in the neighbourhood, and not even really close.

Anonymous said...

Jill says:
Just hear Ellis Krauss claim the opposite (and brush off my disagreement in the Q&A)

MTC said...

TheStrawMan -

The LDP and the New Komeito were cold enemies until 1998, when the LDP, in its hour of need, suddenly found that its longtime relationships with the Lotus Sect and the New Religions had lost all their spark.

MTC said...

Philippe -

I am agnostic on the possibility of there being a fit alternative to the current government -- a position I will have to explain, I know.

As for the lack of sound trucks, remember that a) these the district elections are prefectural, meaning that each campaign has a hell of a lot of territory to cover, and b) the LDP is so far ahead in most districts that resources are probably concentrated on a very few competitive races, like the third seat in Chiba and the second seats in Miyagi and Shizuoka.

MTC said...

Jill -

Dr. Krauss may need to listen to more early REM:

Then again we all do.

Anonymous said...

It is also worth mentioning that Your Party has said that constitutional revision need not be rushed or prioritised over other policies...meaning they would likely want to extract administrative reform promises from the LDP in return for support on progressing constitutional revision, or discussion about it.