Monday, November 30, 2015

Oh King Of Awful Majesty!

Rex tremendae majestatis
qui salvandos salvas gratis,
salva me, fons pietatis!

"King of Awful Majesty
You who save the worthy without charge,
save me, oh font of mercy!"

[Link - video]
Prime Minister Abe Shinzo is in Paris today, a participant in the mass gathering of world leaders for the COP 21. The good and the mighty will come together, maybe, to map out the next step in our saving of ourselves from the consequences of our lifestyles and organizations, at least as far as climate change goes.

While Mr. Abe is likely to be still asleep at this hour, a brilliant morning awaits him politically. The latest Kyodo News poll is out and it is a stunner for the PM and his allies.

First is the baseline Cabinet support number. It has risen a solid 3.5 points, continuing the Abe Cabinet's popularity's steady climb out its August nadir. Support for the Abe Cabinet now stands at 48.3% of all respondents, with 40.2% of respondents not supporting (down 0.8% from last month). Only 11% of the voters remain on the sidelines (down 2.7% since last month).
Q: Do you support the Abe Cabinet?

Support 48.3%
Do not support 40.4%
Don't know/can't say 11.3%
Asked the reason why they support the Cabinet, a staggering 36.5% of the respondents now say it is because "There is no other appropriate person but Abe Shinzo." This represents a rise in this figure of 8.4 points over a single month. At no time in recent memory has such a large fraction of the electorate enthusiastically/resignedly seen no alternative to the current leader.

Emphasizing the "One Abe to Rule Them All" theme was the movement in favor of the Liberal Democratic Party over this last month -- which is there was no such movement.

Here are the support figures for the parties, both from the survey over this weekend and the one conducted October 7-8 (in parenthesis).
Q: Which party do you support?

LDP 36.7% (36.8%)
Komeito 4.2% (3.6%)
DPJ 10.2% (10.4%)
Communist 4.2% (4.2%)
Innovation 1.1% (4.4%)
Osaka Ishin 4.4%
DSP 0.8% (1.2%)
Other parties 1.4% (1.3%)
Undecided 36.5%% (36.1%)

Osaka Ishin, fresh off its triple victory in the prefectural, mayoral and assembly elections on November 22, has siphoned off the support from the rump Innovation Party (no surprise here) and some further votes from...somewhere else (time will tell). While it has been tempting to write off Osaka Ishin as a minor regional force, with no hope of a national reach anytime soon, attracting 4.4% support in a national poll should shake up some quarters as it surpasses the support for the indubitably national Communist and Komeito parties.

The DPJ secretariat should also be breathing a sigh of relief today, as the poll shows that the bitter and pointless attempt by DPJ conservatives to unseat the moderate party leadership, revealing the ideological divisions within the main opposition party, has not cost the party much of its support. Yet.

In addition to basking in the glow of a near 50% approval rating that is his alone, Abe Shinzo will likely be beaming from the results of the last question of the survey. The responses seemingly refute the concept that Japanese voters are risk-averse when it comes to deploying the Self Defense Forces.

Q: Do you agree with or oppose the dispatch of the Self Defense Forces to the South China Sea to engage in 'cautionary surveillance' (keikai kanshi) of China's building of artificial islands?"

Agree with 52.7%
Oppose 39.9%
No opinion/not sure 7.4%

If you had told me yesterday 52% of Japanese voters are ready and willing to send the SDF into a confrontation with China, I would have thought you daft. Today I obviously would not think you daft...but I am not convinced the Japan normalization partisans should be toasting each other in victory. A telephone poll by definition does not have the respondents looking at a map. For those on the main islands of Japan, the difference between the East China Sea and the South China Sea could be kind of fuzzy. The Senkakus and the Spratlys are both in "the south" at least as seen from everywhere in Japan except Okinawa, and there both in a "China Sea" of a sorts. Asking the voters would they be willing "to have the SDF sailing in between increasingly militarized artificial islands lying in between the Philippines and China" might have generated a different percentage of approving respondents.

Whatever the reality of the level of support for provocative peacemaking, Mr. Abe has reason to look at the mirror today, turn his head to the right, and sigh:


Image: Sunrise from atop Mitake-san, looking toward Yokohama and the Chiba Peninsula. Ome City, Tokyo Metropolitan District, 28 November 2015.
Image courtesy: MTC

1 comment:

Jon Reinsch said...

‘Asked the reason why they support the Cabinet, a staggering 36.5% of the respondents now say it is because "There is no other appropriate person but Abe Shinzo.”’

36.5% of the respondents? That would mean three out of four Cabinet supporters give Abe as their reason!

Or is it 36.5% of the 48.3% who support the Cabinet? That would be 17.6% of the respondents.

At any rate, people so answering should be asked the followup question, “And what makes Abe Shinzo appropriate?”