Saturday, July 18, 2009

Odds and Ends from the 12 July Tokyo prefectural Assembly Election

Ozawa’s expression of his desire to see the U.S. military off except for the 7th Fleet and the DPJ’s near-incoherent backtracking wherefrom could be dismissed as Ozawa being his resentful yet curiously disinterested self. Hatoyama’s extemporaneous ramblings about the Three Non-Nuclear Principles could be dismissed as more of the the usual from the Hatoyama family. But his most recent admission that a DPJ administration will not pull Japan’s Maritime Self-Defense Force out from the refueling operation in the Indian Ocean and newspaper “leaks” regarding DPJ softening over issues surrounding the U.S. military presence in Japan are signs that the DPJ is confident of victory—a DPJ plurality plus a coalition majority—and that it understands that it is time that it got what could become a major foreign policy/national security distraction, i.e. a rift between Japan and the U.S. particularly under a U.S. Democratic administration. The recent efforts by the U.S. Defense and State and Defense Departments, who had been dispatching regional portfolio chiefs (AS and DAS class) to twist arms must have been very useful in bringing the DPJ into line.

On a collateral point, that the DPJ is willing to incur the wrath of the Social Democrats indicates that it sees the SDP holding a very weak hand. And no wonder—the SDP was only able to field two candidates in all of Tokyo, one each in a 6-seat district and an 8-seater. The two SDP candidates received 3% of the votes in their respective districts—only 1/3 and 1/4 of the number of votes that the winner with the least votes in their respective districts received. In Tokyo at least, the SDP has been relegated to fringe status.

Why did the Japanese Communist Party lose 5 seats to fall to 8 while the Komeito managed to gain a seat to bring its number of Prefectural Assemblymen to 23 even though the JCP (barely) won more votes than they did in the 2005 election and the Komeito (barely) less? The LDP-Komeito coalition did a much better job sharing its votes among its candidates than the DPJ did among its own, so when the floater vote went heavily for the DPJ, the JCP bore the brunt of the fallout, that’s why. Anyone who wants to know more and can read Japanese should start here. The effect is easiest to see in the 3-seat multi-member districts.

What does this portend for the Lower House election in Tokyo? It’s hard to say unless you have the time and money to explore the districts in more detail. There were too many “unaffiliated” candidates who received substantial numbers of votes (although only two of them won seats) to draw any clear conclusions without knowing the true affiliations of those candidates. However, I think that the DPJ appears to have held a small but clear edge over the LDP-Komeito coalition.

The turnout was much higher than I had expected, and it came out for the DPJ. Even so, it wasn’t a total disaster for the LDP-Komeito coalition in terms of the votes received. In Tokyo at least, it won’t take that much of a switch in voting pattern to turn the tables in their favor.

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