Saturday, September 20, 2008

Quo Vadis? The Communist Vote in the Unrepresented Districts

Ross has reminded me that the Japan Communist Party’s decision not to field candidates in half, likely more, of the 300 single-seat seat Lower House elections are likely to have substantial consequences, in the DPJ’s favor. True, but it’s the magnitude that is so hard to guess at.

The JCP announced 138 candidates to contest single-seat races. That leaves 162 without a JCP candidate. Reports say that the JCP will be naming a small number of additional candidates later, but that’ll be it. A rough, sample scan of Hokkaido districts shows that the JCP typically reaps votes at somewhere in the 10,000s to the 30,000s per district. If the DPJ can capture a big chunk of those votes, that will make the difference in close and possibly even some not-so-close races. The question is, how likely is this to happen?

For me, the difficulties in making a plausible guess at the actual impact are at least twofold. First, I do not have access to the kind of detailed polling data that enables me to understand how the JCP vote breaks down into hardcore socialist and plain-vanilla protesters against the status quo. The JCP vote fluctuates substantially from election to election—a swing of 10,000 votes or so between elections in a single-seat district is not unusual—so a detailed, district-by-district examination coupled with a more macro analysis may yield a clue here. Second, the DPJ has been taking a decidedly populist/politics-first turn under Mr. Ozawa. I have no idea how this much this works against it in wooing the protest vote. If I have to add a third, it is that I don’t yet know if the JCP will try to influence their supporters one way or the other. My guess is that it will stay neutral and its core supporters in the unrepresented districts will mostly abstain.

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