Saturday, July 11, 2009

Notes on Tomorrow’s Tokyo Prefectural Assembly Election

The Aso camp has been insistent that it will treat a LDP-Komeito combined majority in tomorrow’s (12 July) Tokyo Prefectural Assembly election as a victory. It has also been downplaying the importance of the election, claiming that it is not a referendum on the Aso administration. Let’s take a look at the first point.

Currently, the LDP and Komeito hold 48 and 22 seats respectively for a total of 70 seats; they must keep 64 seats (out of the 127 seats) to maintain a joint majority. Let’s assume that Komeito with its bedrock Sokagakkai support keeps 22 seats. This means that the LDP takes the whole 6-seat hit, which leaves it with 42 seats. Now, assume that the DPJ keeps its 33 seats while capturing the 3 seats the national coalition partners lose, as well as the 2 currently vacant seats. This means that everyone else holds on to what it has—Communists 13, Tokyo Consumers’ Network 4, Social Democrats 0, others 1, and independents 3—and the DPJ winds up with 127 – 64 – (13 + 4 + 1 + 3) = 52, a 10-seat advantage over the LDP, with 42. Now, the Komeito may win or lose a few seats of its own, and the Communists may grab a few more on their own, God knows from whom. Still, the message remains clear: in any scenario where the smaller parties maintain their ground—a narrow LDP-Komeito victory over the DPJ is highly likely to leave the LDP badly outdistanced by the DPJ on a one-on-one basis*.

This has serious implications in a national election. Note that the 127-seat Tokyo Prefectural Assembly electoral districts consist of 2 eight-seat districts, 3 six-seaters, 3 five-seaters, 6 four-seaters, 5 three-seaters, 16 two-seaters and 7 one-seaters. This means that less than 7% of the seats are contested in first-past-the-stile elections in contrast to the national Lower House election, where the 25 single-seat districts, or almost 60% of the 42 Tokyo seats, will be subject to winner-take-all contests. In short, even a relative modest popular-vote victory can mean a landslide victory for the winner, while votes for smaller parties will be of much less significance in the outcome.

But can the LDP achieve even this modest goal?

The 4-5 July Yomiuri public opinion poll gives the following percentage breakdown of the Tokyo residents’ voting intentions for the 12 July election (2005 poll in parentheses):
DPJ……..29.4 (14.3)
LDP………: 16.9 (25.9)
Komeito….: 5.1 ( 6.7)
JCP……….: 4.5 ( 4.8)
SDP……….: 0.8
No answer : 42.7%
The DPJ beats the LDP and Komeito combined 29.4% to 22.0. This means that even if Komeito successfully throws all the Sokagakkai votes to the LDP in the 23 single- and two-seat districts and the LDP does a better job of splitting its votes between its multiple contenders in the 3-seat and up districts, the LDP has a huge a uphill battle to gain enough seats to maintain a LDP-Komeito joint majority. It looks likely that the LDP and the Komeito will hang together**.

Note also that he DPJ does even better on a question regarding the national Lower House election, at 39.8% to 25.4% (LDP 20.8%, Komeito 4.6%). This is Tokyo, where the voters are fickle, and progressive. But it’s hard to believe that the Aso administration can withstand yet another loss—which, unlike gubernatorial and mayoral elections, cannot be blamed on the candidate—and lead the LDP into the Lower House election.

* There’s also the Tokyo Seikatsusha Nettowaaku, or Tokyo Consumers’ Network. The Network is a political offshoot of the consumers’ cooperative movement consisting mostly of women. It now holds four seats in the Tokyo Prefectural Assembly and—most important for the purposes of this post—supports the DPJ in the national election. It’s not exactly Komeito, but it’s not zero-seat JSDP either, even though it has very low name recognition. If it does well in the Tokyo election, like the vote for the Communists, the results must be seen as yet another sign of dissatisfaction with the status quo, including the DPJ.

** Since nothing notable happened between the weekend Yomiuri poll and my Monday stroll at the train station, I must admit that, unless some Communist supporters are hiding their intent from the pollsters, which is always a possibility, the Communist surge so far exists only in my imagination—and perhaps my hometown, a traditional Communist stronghold. So it’s likely that the support for the DPJ that has been extended to local elections of late is holding firm in Tokyo as well. In the same context, I think that it is significant that 42.7% of the responders showed no preference for any party.


Ross said...

The LDP-Komeito coalition will be protected to some extent by the multiple member district system used in the Tokyo elections. Coming in first is no better than placing in the district.

By contrast, the single-member districts that now determine victory in the majority of lower house seats won't offer the same protection come the general election. With SMD, the translation of votes into seats is much more volatile.

Jun Okumura said...

Ross: True, which is why there is no talk of losing half their seats, like the speculation in the tabloids and weeklies with regard to the LDP’s national Lower House seats. If the LDP can stay even with the DPJ in the multiple-member districts, the LDP-Komeito coalition can take the battle for a joint majority to the LDP-DPJ battle in the single-member districts, where the vote count may indeed produce unexpected results. So yes, it’s not unthinkable that the LDP will do as well or even better than the DPJ with substantially fewer votes over the entire prefecture. I suppose I could look at how the individual SMD voting came out in the previous election to get a good handle on that question, if someone would pay me to do it. In the meantime, I have to satisfy myself with the information and time available.