Monday, December 09, 2013

Live Shinzo, Defending

Prime Minister Abe Shinzo has just finished a national televised address and press conference. He offered a long explanation and spirited defense of the Special Secrets Protection Act, the law that has threatened to swallow his broader agenda*. The reasons he provided for the new law were superficially convincing, which may be sufficient to halt the skid in his Cabinet's popularity ratings (the public poll TBS was flogging prior to the broadcast showed only a minor 5 point month-on-month fall in the Cabinet support numbers but an enormous 14.5 point rise over the same span in the negative "Do Not Support" rating, devouring the "Don't know" ambivalent voters. Polarizing indeed has this Cabinet become). Anyone who spending any time examining his explanations would find the holes, such as when he used the Algeria massacre of January this year as a reason for a need for smoothed paths of communications in between intelligence services. That such communications would have had zero effect on the outcome at the natural gas plant is, of course, not something the PM is willing to concede.

In response to a question regarding the Cabinet's having lost the plot as regards economic policy, the PM gave a hearty response, listing the various spending and industrial policy initiatives passed during the brief extraordinary session. The PM indicated he appreciates that it is hard to call the just concluded session "The Diet Session For The Realization Of The Economic Growth Stategy" -- which is what he predicted in October would become the shorthand used to characterize this particularly Diet term.

All in all it was a pretty good performance. However, the PM's focusing on the votes taken, rather than on how the legislation enacted will result in the satisfaction of particular policy goals, is reminiscent of the paralytic execution disease that gripped him in 2006-07. Execution is important but it is not an end in and of itself. It should not ever be construed as a substitute for achievement.

It is hard for the PM resist the cult of execution, perhaps even harder now than in 2006-07. During this stint in office he has been spending a lot of private time with go-getter corporate executives, many of whom have only a weak grasp of politics and little appreciation of the softer arts of persuasion.

Later - NHK News has a new public opinion poll out. Support for the Cabinet fell 10 points, from 60% to 50%, over the last month, with the "Do Not Support" number rising 10 points to 35%. In terms of the parties, support for the Liberal Democratic Party fell 5.2 points from month to month, with the Democratic Party of Japan siphoning off the largest portion (+2.6% since last month) of the lost support.


* Bad as the fight for as the passage of the Special Secrets Protection Act has been for the LDP, it has been much worse for the parties -- the New Komeito, the Japan Restoration Party and the Your Party -- that submitted the bill alongside the LDP. The stresses from having supported the Act precipitated today's fission of the Your Party, with former secretary-general Eda Kenji leading 14 fed up Diet members out in search of more strongly anti-LDP pastures. (Link)

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