Monday, December 01, 2014

Looking At The Election With The Glass Half Full

True to its Watanabe Tsuneo-set mandate of being the Liberal Democratic Party's house organ, The Yomiuri Shimbun paints a picture of opposition parties in a hopeless, riven position requiring desperate actions on the eve of Tuesday's official start of the campaign:
Poll prompts opposition to eye merger
TheYomiuri Shimbun

Movements to restructure and consolidate opposition parties will likely intensify after the upcoming House of Representatives elections, as the Democratic Party of Japan, the main opposition party, has decided not to seek a change of government in the elections for the first time since its inauguration, observers said.

DPJ Secretary General Yukio Edano told the press in Osaka on Saturday that his party will not seek a change of government at the upcoming lower house election.

"We would like to win sufficient seats this time so that voters will consider our party a possibility for government at the next election," Edano said.

DPJ leader Banri Kaieda also told the press on the same day, "We will try to increase the number [of our seats] to bring a feeling of tension to the Diet." Kaieda apparently meant that the DPJ would virtually concede the continuation of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's administration and seek a chance to return to power at another lower house election in the future.

It is the first time since the DPJ's inauguration — in 1998, with the merger of the former DPJ, the Good Governance Party and others — that it has not sought a "change of government" as its goal in lower house elections.

As of Saturday, the DPJ had fielded only 178 candidates for the upcoming elections, far fewer than the 238 required to claim a majority in the 475-seat lower house. Its final number of candidates is expected to be about 200, including those in the proportional representation section. Even if all of them were elected, the DPJ would not be able to form a single-party administration.

In the 1993 lower house elections, the Japanese Socialist Party, which was the main opposition party at that time, the Japan Renewal Party — a breakaway group from the LDP — and the others fought, calling for formation of a government with other parties opposed to the LDP and the Japanese Communist Party. Consequently, the government of Prime Minister Morihiro Hosokawa was formed after the elections under eight non-LDP political parties and groups.

However, the upcoming elections are unconventional compared to those of the past. They lack the option of a government based on cooperation among non-LDP parties since the DPJ this time has not revealed a plan to form a coalition government with the Japan Innovation Party or other opposition parties.

Meanwhile, the Japan Innovation Party had fielded only 81 candidates as of Saturday.

Phantom new party

Alarmed by Abe's lower house dissolution for a snap election, members of the opposition parties have come up with the idea of unifying non-LDP forces to create a new party.

Former DPJ leader Seiji Maehara secretly met Japan Innovation Party coleader Toru Hashimoto in Osaka on Nov. 15 to propose a plan to form a new party.

"Let's form a new party with the DPJ, the Japan Innovation Party and Your Party," Maehara was quoted as telling Hashimoto. "That will enable the opposition to win more seats than the ruling coalition parties at the next House of Councillors election to create a divided Diet."

Both Maehara and Hashimoto are considered advocates for reorganization of the opposition parties, and are sufficiently close as to hold frequent meetings with one another...


OK, first of all, the silly stuff. "The opposition" is not eyeing a merger, Maehara Seiji is. Maehara, Amaterasu bless him, cannot get through breakfast without thinking of establishing a new, streamlined, conservative breakaway opposition government party with like-minded elements of other parties. He just never gives up on this kind of transparent, pathetic machination. He is the dog who will not stop bringing you a stick for you to throw even after you close the front door on him.

As for not having a "change in government" as the Democratic Part of Japan's goal -- what is wrong with having realistic goals? If you do not have enough candidates running to form a government and have had no negotiations with other parties on forming a coalition , would not setting a goal of a change in government be an invitation for anti-opposition figures like, oh let's say, the editors of The Yomiuri Shimbun, to accuse the DPJ of attempting to defraud the voters, enticing them with a promise the party cannot, in fact, deliver upon?

Talk about damned if you do, damned if you don't.

Furthermore, the analysis at the beginning is backward. Restructuring and consolidation will not take place after the election is over. The period of restructuring and consolidation is now, in the run up to tomorrow's opening of the campaign. An impending election has forced parties and individuals to decide whether to stay put, move in another direction or get out of the game entirely. Once the election is over, the pressure for change will be off, and off for a long time.

As for the tone and structure of the article, which posits simultaneous states of panic and resignation in the opposition, well, the nicest way to dismiss this depiction is say, "Amaterasu, this was sooooo two weeks ago! It's December 1 baby! Think of how much more the opposition will get its act together over the next two weeks!"

For the opposition has gotten it's act together after the inevitability of a Diet dissolution sank in over the second week of November. The DPJ has 177 candidates for the districts, up from 149 two weeks ago. The Japan Innovation Party has 81 candidates, up from 49 two weeks ago. There is some overlap in the candidacies -- the two parties will both be fielding candidates in 22 districts. However, that number is down from over 40 overlaps only two weeks ago.

Furthermore, fielding candidates in 236 out of a total 295 single-member districts is hardly running up a white flag of surrender. About 20% of the districts, mostly in Kyushu and the Chugoku regions of western Japan and the prefectures along the Japan Sea in eastern Japan, are so hopelessly dominated by Liberal Democratic Party machines that putting up candidates in them would be a waste of human and financial resources. Better to marshall the resources one has to contest the truly competitive districts, leaving the LDP strongholds alone.

The Yomiuri's account surreptitiously argues that the Abe administration and the LDP are invincible in this election. If one is talking about coming out on top numerically on December 14, this take is probably not wrong. However, to assume that Abe and Co. can come out this hastily arranged election with a strengthened capacity to govern and dominant position in Japan's political firmament is probably not right at all.


Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Kanagawa District 10, a pretty urban area spanning east and south Kawasaki, covers where I live. Maybe this could serve as an indicator of how the urban SMDs will look for this election.

In the 2009 election, the DPJ beat the LDP with 49% to 38%.

In the 2012 election, the DPJ incumbent was unseated only because he had to face candidates from Your Party and Isshin splitting the non-LDP vote (54% total), allowing the LDP candidate to sneak in with only 38% of the vote.

(In both occasions, the Communists took 10%)

Ever since the Diet was dissolved, I've been seeing a lot of this DPJ guy speaking in the station where I live almost everyday (OK, every OTHER day), while the LDP incumbent has hardly been spotted yet.

With Your Party going down the dustbin of history, and Isshin coordinating with the DPJ, I fully expect the DPJ guy to retake his seat.

Anonymous said...

Just got back from Tamana, Kumamoto and not a person I talked to about politics felt good about where the Abe government is taking things. The opposition here is the Communist Party and they had a fair number of ads posted on homes (albeit still markedly less than the LDP's).

jaichind said...

On thing you did not mention was that DPJ forms alliance with regionalist party NPD in Hokkaido. In 2012, LDP-NKP swept Hokkaido FPTP 12-0 after in 2009 DPJ swept it 11-1. In 2005 it was DPJ 8-4 despite the Koizumi landslide of 2005. It was the split between DPJ and NPD that lead to the massive losses in 2012. Now NPD agreed to support DPJ in 11 of 12 seats and DPJ will support NPD in the 7th district where the NPD candidate backed by DPJ will be daughter of the NPD president. This alliance should get the DPJ-NPD to something like 6-6 it not something like 8-4 especially if they manage to get ex-PM Yukio Hatoyama who is seen in Hokkaido as a hero to campaign for DPJ-NPD.

MTC said...

Anonymous #2 and #3 -

Thank you for your on the ground reporting.

jaichind -

Spot on and thank you. Hokkaido is literally and figuratively a long way from Tokyo...but the implications of the absorption of the NPD in return for the DPJ candidacy of Suzuki Takako look large even from here.