Sankei says the DPJ could fall below 100 seats while Yomiuri says that it has managed to secure around 30 regional proportional district seats (RPD)—surely based on the Yomiuri poll—and leading in only 10 single member districts (SMD) and running neck-and-neck in another 21. When a newspaper says what Sankei is saying at this point in the campaign, it means that the DPJ is going to miss 100 by a wide margin. How large? Say the DPJ wins half of the 21 in which it is co-frontrunner and give it 35 RPD seats by extrapolating from the Yomiuri and Asahi polls; the total comes to around 55 seats. By comparison, in the 2005 postal reform election, the previous DPJ nadir, the count dropped to 113 and Katsuya Okada had to go down.
The LDP-Komeito coalition appears to have a core support base of a little over 1/3rd of the effective votes (LDP 1/4+, Komeito 1/10+) while the DPJ has 1/5th in the bag at most. Let’s say that the Communists, SDP, and Ozawa have 1/10th between them. That leaves 1/3rd of the effective votes unaligned, roughly half of them, or 1/6th overall, unlikely to go to the LDP-Komeito coalition under any circumstances. If someone can somehow find a way to add this 1/6th to the DPJ’s 1/5th, you have a roughly 1/3rd of the total, on a par with the LDP-Komeito coalition. That would be a pretty stable two-party/coalition system. But with the emergent opposition divided ideologically temperamentally between what is likely to be the DPJ leadership and the Ishihara-Hashimoto mutual man-crush, the chances of that happening any time soon are slim. And the Big Bang that we’ve been waiting for looks distant if the LDP-Komeito wins big.
In the meantime, a few more details on how the two main parties have been lining up their candidates.
In 2009, the LDP and DPJ fielded 289 and 271 SMD candidates respectively. This time around, the numbers are down slightly to LDP 288 and DPJ 264, modest drop-offs, really, especially for the DPJ, given its massive defections over the past year.
Or are they? Kunio Hatoyama is receiving local LDP support to seek reelection as an independent and will almost surely rejoin the LDP if he wins. That makes the 2009 and 2012 slates a wash. Moreover, Komeito has increased its SMD candidates from eight to nine. So the LDP-Komeito coalition has at least 299 out of the 300 SMDs effectively covered. On the other side, the DPJ is no longer ceding a handful of SMDs to former coalition partner SDP while accommodating far fewer candidates (down to three from nine in 2009) from coalition partner PNP. In short, the LDP-Komeito coalition continues to have most if not all—I suspect that there’s an independent candidate somewhere that I can find if I looked hard enough—of the 300 SMDs covered, while the DPJ-led coalition’s loss is much larger than it looks at first sight.
And the RPDs further highlight the DPJ disadvantage. The SMD candidates have taken out zombie insurance in the form of parallel regional proportional district (RPD) candidacies. But the DPJ “undead” candidates, the RPD-only candidates, who are more like index futures purchased by political parties at 6 million yen a pop, has plummeted from 59 to 3 while the LDP undead has swelled from 37 to 49.