Monday, December 17, 2007

Sudden Drop in the Polls Convinces Prime Minister Fukuda to Apologize after All

The evening Yomiuri reported that Prime Minister Fukuda had made up his mind to apologizing for having to break the LDP/Abe campaign promise to go after every last public pension account owner and pay them. Plunging opinion polls will do wonders for your conscience. On the other hand, Mr. Fukuda’s performance seems to have left something to be desired in terms of showing true contrition. It’s not his style, I know… still.

Looking back, I can believe the sometimes insensitive Heath, Labor and Welfare Minister Yōichi Masuzoe making this kind of public communication blunder. Why, though, did Mr. Fukuda and worldly, astute Chief Cabinet Secretary Nobutaka Machimura make this god-awful gaffe? Some of it must have been due to a sense of loyalty to Shinzō Abe, hapless Prime Minister and co-member of the Machimura faction. But a previous press conference by Mr. Masuzoe, where blaming the election campaign seemed to work, appears to have lulled the authorities into a false sense of security*.

Barring further bad tidings, Mr. Fukuda’s poll numbers will edge up again. But his likeability quotient has dropped, and his margin of error has narrowed. In the short run, though, this will make him even more determined to push the refueling resumption bill with a supermajority override, and even more unlikely to call a snap election. However, he will be more reluctant to push the opposition on other major issues.

Why? First, LDP hardliners will push for his resignation if he does not push the refueling bill. Second, nothing helps to discourage Mr. Fukuda from dissolving the Lower House more than prospects of losing more seats. Finally, his capacity to make the public feel that the DPJ is being unreasonable and disingenuous in any public confrontation has been diminished.

* I hope to have more on that later.

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