Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Tracking Koike's Ambition, 2

Tracking Koike's Ambition, Day 2, 2 October 2017

Yesterday, the momentum was all Koike's. The effectively disbanded Democrats, despite some reservations from the more liberal elements, were expected to fold into the new Party of Hope. But between finishing yesterday's post and about lunchtime today, Koike's desire for power and control apparently over-rode her pragmatism. It soon became clear that she was going to be very hands-on in selecting successful wannabe candidates. The candidates were going to have to toe a rather conservative line after all on security matters, for example, and constitutional reform. 

Koike announcing a delay in candidate selection to journalists this evening
Critics offered that this didn't offer much differentiation from the LDP. Her conservative stance, nay, insistence on these policy pillars, saw the more liberal elements of the extinct Democrats scamper for higher ground. By mid-afternoon, party moderate Edano held a media conference to announce a new/old Democrat Party, the Rikken Minshuto (立憲民主党); this had the effect of reclaiming 'Minshuto' rather than 'Minshinto' of a brief yet ultimately ill-fated amalgamation of previous parties, but political historians were rather more intrigued by the use of 'Rikken', meaning 'constitutional', as a prefix for the Democrats. 'Rikken' was previously used in the early years of Japan's parliamentary democracy, in the 1890s; indeed, just as we were thinking we were seeing a repeat of 1993, in fact we were travelling back to 1893...

It now means the disbanded Democrats have three options: run as independent, win at the lottery that appears to be the Koike selection process, or stick with the new/old/liberal Democrats. 

It also means voters have more options and that doesn't augur well for a 'united' opposition to mount a successful run at the Abe Government. 

A couple of early polls done overnight are not promising for Koike's raid either. An Asahi TV poll this evening has some 72% of voters declaring they wouldn't think it would be a good thing if she jumped the Governor's ship to catch the cruiser back to national parliament. She still needs to be assured of numbers (at least 233 candidates at present estimates; needing all her candidates to win their seats) to have any 'hope' of gaining power. An NHK poll (like the ABC in Australia, but considered rather pro-government, had support for the LDP at 30.8%, a drop in the previous numbers; support for Koike's party at just 5.4%; the other parties barely limped in between 3.9% and 0.3%, though it couldn't include the new/old Democrats at the time of the poll. We'll await the next one...

She would be best to use this election as an opportunity to establish a decent base from which to launch her prime ministerial ambitions next time. 

Significant in Japanese polls however, especially for an Australian audience, is the respondents who don't support any particular party. This can extend to no voting intention, not interested, haven't decided, may or may not vote. In Japan, voting is not required. The turnout typically over the last few elections sits in the low 50%. Whereas the LDP continues to have a dedicated group of voters, the non-LDP voters range from the passionate few who will also vote to the others who won't. This is nearly always advantage LDP. On the other hand, a shrewd opposition has a bounty of the uncommitted vote to harvest.

Koike doesn't hide her ambition. For every potential supporter who sees in her a determined, strong-willed woman, there will equally be another who finds her demeanour too steely, too difficult to gauge. Older men tend not to like that. Women do. The gender gap is wide. 

Today, compared with yesterday, Koike probably faltered a little in her run. The speculation over whether or not she will quit the Governorship and make her run for Parliament dominated commentary today. Rumours abounded that she was charging potential candidates a quite substantial sum to take promotional photos with her for election posters; very few contemporary political leaders get through that kind of 'money-grab' unscathed. Also making a play was the language she used to describe those from the Democrats who won't make the cut, 排除 (haijo), to exclude, or to rule out. Some were suggesting Maehara, the Democrats leader, might have been played for a fool ... maybe. Such is Koike's sassy. Or ruthlessness.

The common goal of the opposition including, for the time being, Koike's group, is to unseat the Abe Government. Today was one of those splinter days that will take some regrouping. I expect to see some of that tomorrow.