Wednesday, January 24, 2007

In the Choice for the Lesser of Two Banalities, the Ruling Coalition Has the Upper Hand

This Asahi op-ed by Tetsuya Watanabe calls down a pox on both houses, while laying an MIA charge against the DPJ. He claims that "Sonomanma Higashi's victory in the Miyazaki gubernatorial race Sunday could symbolize a new voter trend--and bad news for both the ruling and opposition parties". I'll use it as a prop, since it is a prototypical JMSM response. And there is much truth in what he says. Though I wonder how Tetsuya Watanabe would explain the Wakayama Prefecture gubernatorial, where the LDP candidate ran virtually unopposed. Or the other two candidates who walked into governor's mansions after the Sunday elections. But I digress.

Mr. Watanabe says that independents are being disillusioned by the two major parties. But is that really bad news for the ruling coalition in July? The Upper House election is a party affair. A small number of well-known, true independents (as opposed to those who do so only out of convenience) may conceivably be elected. But that is a far cry from a gubernatorial or mayoral election, where by definition the winner takes all. Come July, there will be few if any Sonomanmas to turn to.

So, will the voters turn to the Communists? The Socialists? And will anyone take the Kokumin Shinto seriously, a party whose only significant message seems to be that they will caucus with the higher bidder? Luckily (or not, depending on your perspective) for Japanese voters, voting is optional. And that will help the LDP, but most of all Komeito, whose supporters neither rain nor sleet nor political scandals will deter.

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