Posted by ampontan on Saturday, November 13, 2010
THE JIJI news agency polls might be the most accurate in Japan (as we’ve seen in this post). The other major media polls use random direct dialing to collate opinion, but Jiji relies on personal interviews. One problem with RDD in Japan is that it misses the younger demographic that owns cell phones but not wired telephones.
Poll watchers are seldom allowed immediate access to the monthly Jiji results because the actual polling is conducted by an affiliated market survey company. The numbers from their 5-8 November poll have been made public, however, and both the Kan Cabinet and the Democratic Party as a whole probably wish they hadn’t. The Cabinet’s approval rating has fallen to 27%, below the critical 30% line. That means it’s time to send the mourning clothes to the cleaners. That figure represents a 11.4 percentage-point drop from the previous month, while the Cabinet’s disapproval rating climbed by 12.6 percentage points to 51.8%.
Further, the poll found that the Liberal-Democratic Party has regained a slim lead in party preference, gaining 16.5% to the DPJ’s 16.2%. That’s not so much a vote of confidence for the LDP as it a clear vote of no confidence in the DPJ. It’s the first time the LDP has topped the Jiji poll since the lower house election of September 2009 (though it did in the later stages of the Hatoyama administration in a Kyodo poll.)
To see how little confidence the public has in the Kan government, one need only look at the reasons given by those who support them. Here’s the top three in order:
There’s no one else suitable: 12.2%
I trust the prime minister: 6.2%
It would be the same no matter who the prime minister is: 5.1%
One of the primary reasons cited for the non-support of the Cabinet is Mr. Kan’s lack of leadership. In June, 6.3% of thumbs pointed down for that reason; now it’s risen to 28.7%.
What would the public prefer? Here are the numbers, also in order:
A post-political realignment government that does not consist of the current framework: 20.8%
A DPJ-led coalition: 17.2%
An LDP-led coalition: 16.2%
A grand coalition with the DPJ and the LDP: 10.1%
In contrast to other polls, the Jiji survey has New Komeito, affiliated with the lay Buddhist group Soka Gakkai, as the third most popular party, with support in the low single digits. Your Party usually winds up third in the RDD polls, but in the Jiji poll it’s a close fourth.
Again, as is consistent with previous Jiji polls, independents constitute more than half of the electorate. Currently the number is 57.4%.
Don’t look for Mr. Kan to reverse those numbers in a significant way; he doesn’t have the political skills. His lack of leadership soon became apparent after he took office. His reputation, such as it is, depended on the sharp critical tongue he flashed in Diet debates as a member of the opposition. In short, his only talent is for carping from the sidelines.
He might prolong the inevitable and gain a brief uptick by replacing Chief Cabinet Secretary Sengoku Yoshito. Mr. Sengoku is the sort of man the anachronistic American weekly news magazines might once have referred to as acerbic. Another way to put it is that he’s a nasty piece of work with the instincts of the gangster lawyer he once was.
Because he is seen as the man really in charge of the government, the media aims their fire at him rather than at Mr. Kan. The weekly Shukan Shincho just concluded a three-part series alleging yakuza ties. Mr. Sengoku filed a lawsuit after the first part appeared, but the magazine was undeterred and continued with the other installments. Japanese weeklies lose more of those suits than conventionally responsible journalists would, but they also wind up being vindicated in quite a few as well.
Thus, in little more than a year, the DPJ has managed to paint itself into a corner as if they were the political equivalent of a cartoon or vaudevillian buffoons. Replacing the prime minister yet again without a lower house election will further damage their credibility; that would be too much like the old LDP. It was only because they weren’t the LDP that people voted for them to begin with.
They’d also have a hard time finding a credible replacement. One possibility would be Secretary-General Okada Katsuya, on the theory that his turn is next, but Mr. Okada is not an inspiring figure either. (Also, whether from overwork or stress, he sometimes looks physically unwell. People sincerely worry whether he has the constitution for the job.)
If they follow the old LDP practice of finding a replacement at the opposite end of the party to give the impression of a new leaf having been turned, one logical candidate would be Foreign Minister Maehara Seiji. He’s already served as party president, though the DPJ left doesn’t care for him. Factor in a lack of gravitas, and it’s unlikely he would find any long-term political traction. (His language as foreign minister has been rather undiplomatic. For example, he called the Chinese response to Japanese actions “hysterical”. While that’s an excellent description of Chinese behavior, it’s a poor choice of words for international diplomacy.)
He might be better off trying a few years down the road as a member of a different party in a coalition government. He has friends in the new Spirit of Japan Party, which couldn’t get off the ground in the July election. One reason was that none of the members are now in the Diet, so they were never invited to televised debates.
If the party wanted to Do The Right Thing, it would dissolve the lower house and call for a new election. That, however, might mean the loss of at least a third of their MPs, and it could touch off a political realignment that would lose them even more.
Whatever they choose to do, they aren’t getting out of that corner without smearing themselves in paint. Let’s hope they keep the mess to a minimum.
A Kyodo RDD poll conducted on the 12th and 13th found that 88.4% of the respondents think the government should release the Coast Guard videos, while 7.8% think they should not, and 3.8% don’t know.
As to whether the videos should be considered a state secret, 81.1% think they should not, while 13.2% think they are. The don’t knows/didn’t answers accounted for 5.7%. That means there are a few people who are fine with releasing state secrets!