As so often has been the case, I failed to call it. Having said that…
It’s a secret ballot so we can’t know for sure, but based on the surveys that the mainstream media conducted in the lead-up to the vote, Hatoyama appears to have won thanks to a big lead in the Upper House vote. Okada seems to have at least held his own in the Lower House, whose members were more mindful of the upcoming election than their Upper House counterparts, only half of whom will face the public next year. Hatoyama likely held onto all of his group’s 30 votes as well as most of Ozawa’s 50 votes, so that was a huge head start against his independent opponent. Media surveys indicate that farther away from Ozawa’s group they were the less they preferred Hatoyama.
The question, of course, is: Will the sockpuppet (傀儡政権) trope stick? The media typically gives a new leader a grace period during which it says only nice things. (Remember when the chairman of Sharp, in deep trouble at the time, elevated a board member who was a journalist with no business experience to the chairman’s position and placed his own son, who had been placed on a special fast track, as president/CEO and the media hummed long to the company tune?) This may last only few days, but it’s important in Hatoyama’s case, because this is his best chance to establish himself as the real face of the DPJ. The polls will give him and the DPJ some momentum; it’s up to him to keep the snowball rolling.
Can Hatoyama do it? I noticed that he was a better speaker than I’d remembered. He has a better way with words than Okada. He also looked visibly animated during the DPJ election proceeding, as he no longer had to speak on behalf of the Ozawa DPJ. Speaking of whom, Ozawa must play his part by making himself scarce—something he has little trouble managing to do. In fact, this is the most important part of the DPJ electoral scenario.
This was a most civil election held between two highly civil candidates. It was definitely not politics as usual. The prospects of an imminent takeover must also have helped.