Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Will Power Draw the DPJ Even Closer to the LDP, and Related Thoughts

The LDP’s refueling extension bill is now in the Upper House, but the DPJ bill to help out on the ground in Afghanistan did not make it out of the Lower House. The LDP-New Komeito voted the latter down, no surprise there. However, the Communists (JCP) and Social Democrats (SDP) added their voices of opposition just to be sure.

Not that either of the two hands cared what the other one was doing; the JCP and SDP don’t want the Self-Defense Forces to go to Afghanistan, period. In fact, there’s no reason to believe that the two left-wing parties and any independent allies of theirs will vote for any particular measure put forth by a DPJ-led administration. Beyond that, there’s the People’s New Party, more conservative, actually, than the LDP itself.

Unless the DPJ winds up with a majority of the seats in the upcoming election, a DPJ administration may have to work even more closely with the LDP and/or the New Komeito—a grand coalition?—than it’s doing now if it wants to get its legislative initiatives out of the Lower House. And we haven’t even talked about the Upper House, where the DPJ will be short of a majority at least until 2010. The alternative for the DPJ is to find an LDP splinter group that is willing to join a coalition government. Both of these options, if engineered successfully, should be more manageable and able to get more things done than a coalition with the other parties currently in opposition.

I’ve already said that the DPJ is a poor man’s LDP. In fact, the two have far more in common (including their respective ideological cacophonies barely contained by party discipline and a common desire for power) than any other combination of the political parties. The Japanese electorate thinks so too, if this Waseda-Yomiuri poll is any indication. The DPJ and LDP both scored highly negative 17%-79% and 20%-80% satisfaction/dissatisfaction splits respectively. As for future prospects, the DPJ and DPJ scored nearly identical 49%-50% and 50%-48% respectively for the expectation/non-expectation split.

A few caveats: this is a Yomiuri poll, albeit with the Waseda University gloss. Also, the DPJ did do better on other indices. It also scored better with the younger generations. Conventional wisdom tells us that, other things being equal, that is not good news for the DPJ in terms of election-day turnout. However, it does bode somewhat well for the DPJ in the long-run if (a huge if at that) the political configurations remain more or less as is.

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