If the Mainichi report giving Ozawa a tentative 185 to 164 lead over Kan (with 63 not showing any preference) in support among the 416 DPJ Diet members is to believed, then the odds against an Ozawa victory appear to be insurmountably long. Barring an unforeseen disaster for Kan—a deeply wounding personal scandal might do the trick—or an as-yet undetected Sokagakkai effect of significant proportions, Kan will prevail in the overall vote on 14 September. I think that Ozawa has seen the writing on the wall. That might be the real reason why he looks so cheerful on the hustings; he knows he won’t have to be prime minister after all.
Anyway, here’s my arithmetic.
(The Diet member vote)
Let’s assume that none of the 185 + 164 already indicating their preferences changes his/her mind and that the remaining 63 Diet members break out in the same 185:164 ratio. This gives Ozawa and Kan 33.4 and 29.6 more Diet members respectively. Since each Diet member has two votes, Ozawa receives 436.8 votes and Kan 387.2. I’m giving Ozawa the benefit of the doubt here, since nothing is happening to make these fence-sitters jump to Ozawa’s side. To the contrary, subsequent opinion polls paint a bleak picture for Ozawa, as the Kan administration’s approval ratings have been shooting well above pre-election levels even as Ozawa’s deeply negative numbers show no sign of a turnaround.
(Official party members and supporters)
Early estimates put support for Kan and Ozawa in the 60-70% and 20% neighborhood respectively. More specifically, media reports put Ozawa ahead in only his home prefecture Iwate and no-to-US-military Okinawa. But let’s be improbably generous to Ozawa and give him 40%, or 120 of the 300 votes available and Kan only takes 60%, or 180.
( Local assemblymen)
Media reports say that Kan hold an edge here, but let’s be generous to Ozawa and split the 100 votes evenly, giving Ozawa and Kan 50 votes each.
Kan : 387.2 + 180 + 50 = 617.2 votes
Ozawa: 436.8 + 120 + 50 = 606.8 votes
Okay, that’s only a ten-vote difference. But look at the heroic assumptions that I’ve had to make to enable Ozawa to come close. Of course there’s another week to go, during which something unexpected might come up such as, say, 16 seconds of uncomfortable silence from Kan while looks for appropriate bullets from his crib sheet or an unexpectedly early, clean, and unequivocal bill of health (and I mean clean and unequivocal) for Ozawa from the committee investigating his political financing criminal case). But likely? Not.
The one factor that keeps me from betting the house on Kan is what I call the Sokagakkai Effect. Let me explain.
Komeito routinely outperforms public opinion polls by wide margins when it comes to actual election results. In fact, the margins are so wide that they cannot be explained away by extremely high turnout from its core support base, i.e. the members of the laic Buddhist organization Sokagakkai. The reasons for this can only be guessed at by this resource-poor blogger, but I suspect that it has a lot to do with the old social stigma attached to the cultish reputation that plagued Sokagakkai’s in its earlier decades of proselytizing through its faith-healing, marriage-saving, business-enhancing messages. I suspect that supporters don’t want to telegraph their Sokagakkai affiliation, not even to opinion poll canvassers at the other end of the telephone wire. (These polls only cover fixed line households.) Could the same think be going on with Ozawa admirers? Could they be too embarrassed to tell media reporters in the face of near-relentless criticism that they actually prefer that formidable old politico, political warts and all? More to the point, could there be enough such Kakure Ozawarians to deliver an unexpected victory to him come 14 September? For that one day, it’s surely as likely as if not more so than—the next Great Kanto Earthquake, the one event that the insurance companies refuse to offer a policy for my house.
Kan must of course also be careful around the media’s vested interest in keeping this a race.