Thursday, September 03, 2009

Sw!nger Komeito?

Komeito went into to the 30 August House of Representatives election with 31 seats and came out with only 21. Not satisfied with giving the junior coalition member a haircut, the Japanese electorate kicked out the Komeito leadership—all the single-member-district candidates including the party leadership had declined to take out insurance policies in their local proportional representation blocs, and were summarily rejected by their SMD constituents—in the bargain. Media reports carry understandable grumbling from the rank-and-file about the wisdom of the current relationship with the LDP.

As the proprietor of the Shisaku blog has pointed out in another forum, Komeito supporters, i.e. 8,000,000 or so eligible Sokagakkai voters, swung roughly 10 percentage points of the overall vote to the LDP in the proportional representation blocs*. This appears to have also been the case in past HOR elections under the current mixed membership-single non-transferable vote system. That’s a 20 percentage-point wing that the Komeito-Sokagakkai team can engineer at will, if their steadfastness within the coalition during the maelstrom was any indication. I also note that the DPJ majority’s center-left leanings are closer to Komeito thinking—pro-Asia, pro-individual, pro-handout—than the somewhat more rightish LDP core. Look at the manifestos, and the old Sokagakkai-Ozawa liaison.

Speaking of Ozawa, Gakkai-Ozawa animosities are widely considered the biggest obstacle for a potential DPJ-Komeito matchup. Perhaps. But this is politics. From the DPJ’s point of view, Komeito is a more natural ally policy-wise than the Social Democratic Party to the left and the People’s New Party to the right. And still has 21 seats in the House of Councilors after two election losses of its own, a baseline number that in a coalition would give the DPJ a wide margin of error in the 2010 HOC election. From Komeito’s point of view, the downside of a pre-HOC election deal is that after the switch, it may have to wait as many as 3 years before it receives the payoff in the next HOR election. An HOC payoff is just about impossible to engineer because there are only 29 single member districts in the HOC and none of them favor Komeito, predominantly urban party.

* If you can read Japanese, it’s easy to make this out from the third table in this Wikipedia entry (source: Jiji Tsūshin). Shisaku does more arithmetic here.

4 comments:

Ken Y-N said...

Is i mistaken to assume that all, or even most, of the 8 million votes are Soka Gakkai? Part of the SG activities come elextion time is pestering one's friends and colleagues for a vote. It would be interesting to see a poll that asked:

Why did you vote for New Komeito?

1. SG member
2. Non-SG, but like their policies
3. Non-SG, but a friend asked me to

Jun Okumura said...

Ken-Yi: In this election, I think that Komeito was down pretty close to its core supporters—Gakkai members and non-Gakkai spouses. It’s at least plausible given the number of households Sokagakkai claims and even more the discipline evident in the massive LDP/Komeito, MSD/PR-bloc shifts. But I’m just guessing here. Unfortunately, mass media outlets and wire services take the polls here, and they appear to be very sensitive about being seen as targeting specific religions or sects.

There was a time when Sokagakkai had mellowed just enough that Komeito could hope to be the third way between the LDP and the left. It passed as it merged, then split, with Ozawas’s forces, then joined the LDP.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Jun Okumura said...

The anonymous comment that I deleted consisted of a list of links, one to an erotic website (I think; it was all written in the Cyrillic alphabet, but it did contain ads using sexual images), and another Juventus fan site (I think, though again, Cyrillic), while the third one that I clicked brought up an attack site warning. I assume that the first word in the title invited an automated post, so I've altered the word in the hopes that it will keep the spammy stuff away