In my previous post I made mention of the dual trends of decreasing support for all political parties in the current system and the, perhaps optimistic, possibilities for stability to come about should there be a House of Representatives election later this year.
The Asahi Shimbun has released their own poll (jp), and the main findings are consistent with others. The Asahi poll however contains a few more details which are worthy of mention if we are to consider the public’s thinking in regards to the current situation.
While we do find (jp) widespread rejection of the DPJ centred governance (22% in favour, 58% against) and a desire for Kan to quit soon (30% for Kan continuing vs 49 hoping he quits soon),1 there is not necessarily widespread rejection of DPJ policies as such. 53% agree with the idea that the consumption tax should be raised for the purposes of stabilizing the social security system, versus 35% against. In a straight yes or no on the consumption tax question, 46% agree with 45% against. However, the public also strongly agrees with the opinion that if there is a concerted effort to reduce waste in government administration then there might not be a need to raise the consumption tax immediately (64%v23%). Taking these results together therefore suggests that, as is sensible, that the public agrees with the idea that there still needs to be a thorough investigation of government spending before raising the consumption tax. The public does not believe that no more savings can be found and does not believe that such savings are inconsequential. It appears they are suspicious of attempts to raise taxes before government spending has been looked at thoroughly and before they take the politicians seriously it seems that they wish to see some genuine sacrifices from the political class before they are called up on to make sacrifices of their own. However, it also appears that the public is quite realistic and does not necessarily subscribe to the idea offered by the DPJ in 2009, that Japan’s fiscal situation can be resolved from eliminating government waste alone.
Indeed the public does not appear to be all that bothered by the DPJ revising their 2009 manifesto as is being looked at by the party now – 54 percent acknowledge the need for this, while 36 percent believe it is unjustified. Interestingly the public seems roughly divided on recent developments where the DPJ is now working much more closely with the bureaucracy – 40 percent believe that moves by the DPJ to rely more on the bureaucracy were appropriate, while 42 percent are still against a closer relationship between DPJ politicians and the bureaucracy.
Perhaps the most interesting question asked is in relation to who to blame for the current political situation – 31 percent believe the disposition of opposition parties towards the government is to blame while 24% blame the DPJ’s approach to governance. Given that the keidanren chairman, Yonekura Hiromasa, has come out and openly criticized the approach of the opposition in regards passing the budget, the LDP in particular might be finding themselves in a difficult position (Yonekura called those not looking to cooperate at all “salary thiefs” 給料泥棒 – a phrase usually used to refer to good for nothing politicians; he also condemned calls for a snap election as being ignorant of the public’s welfare).
Clearly the keidanren is looking out for its own – after forming a workable relationship with the DPJ and acquiring a 5% reduction in the corporate tax from the DPJ (that is part of the budget related bills) they are loath to see this vanish given the long years of LDP rule did not bring even such minimal change. However a more interesting situation could develop where if the LDP, either explicitly or tacitly supports an anti-TPP stance, particularly in the April integrated local elections, they could further burn their bridges with the keidanren. The party’s fate of becoming little more than a conservative rural party could well be sealed.
I still believe the long-term prospects for the Kan cabinet are low – passing the budget will only satisfy the public temporarily – the prospects for other legislation getting passed, even popular legislation, is still low. However there could well be much to be gained by Kan by letting the current situation persist for a couple of months in the lead up to an election – by actually forcing the LDP and other parties to vote against the budget and the budget related bills, and forcing them to come to a conclusion on the TPP in June (and thus compel them to act in accordance with any position, negative or positive), this could well yield some profit for the party as a whole, or any parties that grow out of the April local elections. Of course, this depends on whether the DPJ itself comes out in favour of the TPP. While the decision might well divide the DPJ either way, for the cabinet to not come out in favour in official terms after all of the noise about the heisei opening, this would be a personal disaster for Kan and the likes of Maehara who would have to effectively sign off on such an agreement.
Of additional interest, we are also starting (jp) to see (jp) increased interaction between the DPJ and some local movements already. It seems the competition is between Your Party, Komeito, and the DPJ for siding with local pro-reform movements – the LDP does not appear to be in the picture here.
In other news that isn’t news, the public still really really dislikes Ozawa – hell the guy doesn’t even deserve a fair trial before being kicked out of politics, according to the public.2
1 Although a slim majority still prefers that an election not come about if asked of the choice between the two options.
2 Ozawa has been putting forward the argument that because the compulsory indictment handed down by the citizens judicial panel differed completely from the prosecutors office judgement, then this anomaly means that he should not have to stand down from parliament before trial. The public rejected this reasoning 72% to 17% according to the Asahi poll.