Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Already? The Imminent Your Party Split

It’s not my party so I’m not going to cry over it, but my preceding post is now superseded by the news that Your Party, barring a political miracle, is set for a formal split as early as this evening. Current YP head Keiichiro Asao, the introverted DPJ dropout, looked to an eventual merger of the opposition parties with the DPJ at the core while his predecessor and bankrolling YP founder Yoshimi Watanabe, the happy-go-lucky LDP renegade, wanted to focus on getting the policy right—which in his case meant making whoopee with the Abe administration and its Abenomics. A marriage made in limbo, it appears to have fallen apart when Abe kicked the lower house into snap election hell.

This will obviously help the DPJ. The Asao camp will be free to collaborate with the DPJ in the Dec, 14 election and towards ans eventual merger. The rump Your Party will for all practical purposes be headed by Watanabe, who chose months-long occlusion when a political financing scandal broke out and has yet to give a meaningful public account of the money or his disappearing act. This will make it that much more difficult to find and/or finance YP candidates for the snap election, making it that much easier for the DPJ and its potential allies to have a more or less clean field (the token Communist Party candidate notwithstanding) in contesting single-seat districts against the LDP-Komeito coalition seat-seekers.

I still think that the LDP-Komeito coalition will emerge with a very healthy majority; indeed, I do not think that the LDP’s single-seat majority will be threatened either. With 475 seats to be contested and with 296 seats in hand (including one nominal independent, as custom requires the president and vice president of the two Diet houses to drop their party affiliations), the LDP could lose 58 seats and still hold onto a single-party majority. However, with the unexpectedly poor July-September GDP numbers and this latest YP split, the very low bar for success that the LDP set for itself and the Abe administration when it talked about a hypothetical 30-seat loss has become a plausible goal. Let’s see how the media plays with all this—the media always prefers a real race—and how good a negative campaign the opposition parties can mount around that.

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