Monday, July 05, 2010

Will the DPJ win a simple majority in the Upper House in the July 11 Upper House election?

Will the DPJ win a simple majority in the Upper House in the July 11 Upper House election? This is a very important for policymaking because a bicameral majority will enable the DPJ to 1) pass any bill short of a constitutional amendment on its own and, just as significant politically, 2) claim a renewed mandate from the electorate. It will also help snuff out any prospects of a September rebellion by Ichiro Ozawa and his minions. The media reports suggest that a simple majority is unlikely, but a couple of people whose reading of the political winds I respect say otherwise, so keep an open mind about it. In the meantime…

The eventual outcome turns on the extent to which a) undecided voters will break for the DPJ in the two-seat (one elected every three years to a six-year term) provincial districts and b) Sokagakkai voters help LDP candidates there.

On the first point, the most recent media polls show the DPJ trailing the LDP in convincing its “supporters” to actually vote for it. Given what must be the relative softness of this support and the presence of Your Party as the New Charice, this indicates the DPJ’s difficulty in convincing large numbers of undecided floater voters to opt for its candidates on the provincial ballot. The voting procedure does not help the DPJ if I remember correctly. First, the voter receives the national proportional ballot, in which he must write in the name of a party or a specific candidate. (Japan for all practical purposes has a literacy test.) After he puts the ballot in the ballot box, he receives another ballot on which he is expected to write the name of his choice from the list of provincial district candidates. Most two-seat districts will be contested between DPJ and LDP candidates, but there will be other candidates, Communist and otherwise, available. Specifically, I have a hard time imagining many people explicitly voting against the DPJ on the proportional ballot then turning around and choosing the DPJ candidate on the provincial ballot. My guess is that the average voter would behave differently if the ballots were given out in the opposite order. (This is something that could be confirmed in a behavioral psychology experiment. Any takers?)

Addendum 6 July: I was dead wrong on the voting order, as you will see if you go through the comments. That said, the importance of choice architecture (a term that I just learned a few days ago) in this election should be explored by a combination of exit polls and controlled experiments.

On the second point, media reports show in a large number of provincial districts 6/10th of Komeito supporters leaning towards LDP candidates. Some remain at 5/10th while others reach 7/10th and 8/10th. (There is one district in which it only reaches 2/10th, a sign of some very bad history, no doubt.) The LDP-Komeito coalition is battered, but is obviously not dead.


Anonymous said...

There are so many parties now, which one to really trust and which one can really deliver and not screw up?

Anonymous said...

Excuse me, but the voting procedure is the opposite way, first the district vote, then the proportional vote, so your point isn't valid at all.
for further guidance.

Jun Okumura said...

The major parties have a knack of falling short of our expectations, don’t they? If you want steadfast, loyal, and true, the Communists are nonpareil. But what would it deliver? Not that it will ever be given the chance to try. The SDP is fairly reliable, though, like a comet that strays too close to the Sun, it sheds huge chunks of Diet seats every time it tries its hand at governing with its inevitable compromises toward the middle ground. Of the upstarts, Your Party is probably the most ideologically consistent, but let’s see if it can stay true to its no consumption tax hike claim.

Thanks, Anon bis. You are so right. I was so sure of it that I neglected to fact-check and waddya know I’m wrong—exactly the kind of thing I scorn and mock other people for. Serves me right; I guess I should vote more often. I can see the logic behind the correct order though: the laws want us in the first instance to choose the individual, not the party. In fact, I detect asterisks being attached to Diet members who get in on the proportional ballots. You’ll never see a proportional seat-holder being elected Prime Minister. However, in my case, as I suspect is the case with the bulk of urban voters, I choose the party and could care less about the individual candidate. (In fact, the only incumbent representative of mine that I can name is Akihisa Nagashima, and that’s only because of his foreign policy and national security background.) That must be the reason why the proportional ballot loomed larger and more immediate in my mind, affecting my memory.