Thursday, September 09, 2010

Ozawa and the Sokagakkai Effect; Plus No-D Kan as Placeholder

Remember my caveat regarding the Sokagakkai effect, i.e. the reluctance to disclose one’s true preference for a socially controversial choice, a phenomenon that could result in undercounting the Ozawa vote? I now have some corroborating evidence.

The hard-copy version of this Yomiuri survey, conducted on September 8, says that of the 411 DPJ Diet members (305 Upper House, 106 Lower House; one Diet member no longer has voting rights since he left the DPJ in the wake of the conviction of one of his political operatives), 262 (202 LH, 60 UH) responded to the Yomiuri questionnaire. Based on the questionnaire and other information, Yomiuri concludes that Kan has secured support from 168 Diet members (127 LH, 41 UH) while Ozawa has 171 (127 LH, 44 LH). But does this mean that Kan has closed the gap among Diet members, despite the low marks everyone seems to be giving to his campaigning? I’m not so sure. This Yomiuri report gives the list of Diet members who agreed to allow their names to be disclosed. Of the 168 Kan supporters, 113 (87 UH, 26 UH) agreed to disclose their names for a disclosure rate of 67.3%, but only 86 Ozawa supporters (68 LH, 18 UH) were willing to reveal their preferences for a disclosure rate of 50.3%. Clearly, Ozawa supporters are more reluctant to declare publicly for their candidate of choice. I suspect that this reluctance carries over to the remainder, that Ozawa leads Kan among the 52 (411 – 168- 171) “stealth” members whose preferences not even “other information” would indicate.

The first Yomiuri report continues to give 60~70% of the 300 party member-supporter vote and the 100 assemblymen vote to Kan. But the Sokagakkai effect may be in play here as well. I still think that a Kan victory is a sure thing, but the tally will be closer than the raw numbers currently indicate.

Incidentally, much of Kan’s inability to shake the publicly unpopular Ozawa is attributable to his sheer ineptitude as a campaigner. This flaw has come as a surprise to seasoned insiders. Kan has come across throughout his career as an effective debater, but he was always on the offensive then. Now, he is utterly incapable of projecting himself as an effectively leader as Ozawa attacks him at will. There is no D in Naoto Kan and it shows. That will not be good going forward. Even odds, I’d bet against Kan surviving the next DPJ leadership election (2012) or the next Lower House general election (no later than 2013), whichever comes first. This means, of course, that the DPJ has another crack at choosing a new party head to lead them into the next Lower House general election. If I were a DPJ election strategist, I would ask myself, Why would I want to waste political capital now by picking a new prime minister with all his PR baggage plus his proven ability to generate enemies and alienate allies, when I can always go into the next general election, possibly a double election, without the downside of either one of the two current contestants? From this perspective, Kan is at worst the better placeholder.


PaxAmericana said...

You seem relatively optimistic regarding Kan's chances of survival. In addition to no D, he seems to just be fronting for Keidanren and the bureaucracy, which makes him look pretty much like a long line of LDP politicians. Of course, you may be right that he could stay as a placeholder for some time.

As an aside, the change with no change seems to be wearing out. I would expect the next PM to be popular for about two weeks.

Finally, to answer your question about "Why would I ...", I think it depends upon how tough the situation appears for the DPJ in your eyes. If you think an unpopular Kan could drag them down, then the desperate choice of Ozawa makes sense. If you think Kan is fine as a placeholder, then your logic seems reasonable. My gut tells me the DPJ is in a tough position, but you have undoubtedly forgotten more about Japanese politics than I've ever known, so perhaps a more sanguine view is correct.

Jun Okumura said...

Paxy: Ozawa isn’t making a stand against the reduction of corporate tax rates and Kan isn’t opposed to the reduction of special tax benefits either. Differences regarding the consumption are largely illusory. More generally, it is my view that political maneuvering accounts for most of the difference between the two, especially when it comes to Ozawa’s statements. But I’ll meet you half-way by saying that Kan does look like the dog that finally caught the milk truck and doesn’t quite know what to do with it.

As for your aside, the “next” prime minister, whoever wins, is not going to be very popular. Period. However, the DPJ has enough seats in both houses that it doesn’t need massive help from the opposition to pass legislation on any given issue. The opposition parties want to squeeze the LDP but not so hard that the media and hence the public turns against them. It’s going to be a delicate operation in the lead-up to the next Lower House general election, and Kan has shown little so far to make us believe that he has the political skills to make it work (although one could arguably point to his earlier work as party chief during the 1998 Financial Crisis Diet Session as a measure of his ability to work with the enemy). Still, the remaining three years of the legal mandate give Kan (or his 2012 successor) ample room to maneuver.

And you’ll be surprised to know how little I knew about the political process and its history here only four years ago.

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