Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Tracking Koike's Ambition, 3

Tracking Koike's Ambition, Day 3, 3 October 2017

Today was overshadowed by yet another gun massacre in the US, in Las Vegas. With some 60 dead and over 500 injured, the machinations of Japanese politics seem a little less important today. 

But the body politic is starting to take some shape and pundits were today a little more confident in their assessments, their analysis, their commentary. Koike was also due to announce her first tranche of new party members following meetings and interviews. The decision was held over from yesterday. Koike herself has said she is aiming for 233 candidates to have a good shot at the ruling LDP.

The announcement was made mid-afternoon, Tokyo time, that 192 people had made the cut, 100 from the old Dems. In this forthcoming election, 465 seats, across a combination of single member constituencies and party-list proportional seats, in the one House. 

The party remains confident of reaching its goal, though just where these candidates will come from, remains to be seen. It was revealed that party hopefuls had to pledge adherence to a 8 or 9 point 'policy agreement' (according to two versions floating around social media) as well as rumours of substantial 'donations' and expenses to be covered by the candidate. This is not surprising, given that Koike's party simply doesn't have the national organisation or financial resources to run a national campaign. 

Today's media and books by and about Koike
The policy pledge was evidence of just where the Party of Hope is situating itself on the spectrum, and that is closer to the LDP than perhaps voters considering Koike might like. It explicitly states support for security and debate on amending the Constitution. (There was also a policy about retaining opposition to foreign nationals--residents--gaining voting rights in local level elections.) 

But today will also be noted as the day Koike pinned her prime ministerial ambitions, and political capital, to the wall. She came out categorically '100%' not intending to stand for election this time. There is just a week left before nominations close. Today's declaration doesn't rule her out, they are just words after all, but to about face on this commitment would expend political capital and severely damage her run. Or people might also just dismiss it cynically as 'typical politician' deception. Her running or not running, has made for easy media grabs for members of the government goading her to run. It is cheap politics. (For Queensland readers, it has that same feel of LNP opposition members goading the Premier to call an election date...but I digress.)

We also had the vision of PM Abe today taking the moral high ground condemning the opposition for failing to offer the electorate serious policy choices, instead floundering in turmoil over who is with I and others pointed out, perhaps the fault actually lies with a PM who called the snap election, unnecessarily. However, with a splintering opposition, rather than galvanising their efforts as was anticipated a week ago, PM Abe might just find himself a stronger position as campaigning proceeds. 

There was also the vision of Komeito leader Yamaguchi publicly backing the Abe government (in which it is the junior coalition member), this is despite the Tokyo Metropolitan Komeito group siding with Koike in her July victory. It only fuels voter cynicism.

Another reason that Koike might be ruling out a run this time, for now, is that opinion polling, apart from the usual scattered results at this stage, are not showing quite the boost that Koike might have hoped for. In a social media-hyped world, a curious and not at all scientific indicator, the respective twitter accounts of the brand new/old Constitutional Democrats gained tens of thousands of followers within hours of establishing their account; after six days, Koike's party account failed to reach 2000 followers (late this afternoon). Meaningless, of course, except where perception is everything...

Koike's party still needs numbers, it still needs candidates and it needs financial resources. They thought simply soaking up the Maehara Democrats would address those issues. But as Koike's policy leanings came more to the fore, several Maehara Dems simply couldn't, wouldn't trade their political cache. This is one small spanner in Koike's grand plan. She seems unwilling to compromise (a weakness for any leader, really). And early this evening, with tv images of Koike floating apparently seamlessly between governor duties and party business, two members of her gubernatorial team, elected just in July,  announced their intention to split from the party citing 'dictatorial' management style and oversight. Perhaps there is more to come of that. 

A pivotal day for Koike. Her declaration to remain governor of Tokyo but lead the Party from outside the parliament is a big call. It happened once before, in my home state in Queensland, Australia. It heralded a big win one election, and a devastating loss the next...will this be a precedent of sorts for Koike? Tomorrow is another day.