Monday, November 3, 2008

Aso continues to stumble

Another month has come, and with it more bad news for Prime Minister Aso.

Yomiuri has published its latest tracking poll and found that just over a month into the Aso cabinet the prime minister's unfavorable rating has surpassed his favorable rating. His disapproval rating rose 3.3% to 41.9%, edging past his approval rating, which fell 5.4% to 40.5%.

A majority of respondents (56%) said they approved of the prime minister's decision to put government's response to the financial crisis, but when it comes to the government's response to the crisis, respondents are evenly divided, with 42% supporting the government's response and 46% opposing. The numbers are even less favorable to Mr. Aso's suggestion that the government could raise the consumption tax rate in three years (51% opposed to 42% favorable).

Yomiuri is not alone in recording doubt about the government's economic plans.

Nakagawa Hidenao — who has now made his displeasure with the Aso cabinet public, complaining in a speech in Fukushima of Mr. Aso's decision to postpone an election and begin speaking of a consumption tax — looks at Hodo 2001's 30 October poll and find that while the government's approval rating rose 4.8% to 46% (with the disapproval rating holding steady at 45.4%), there is widespread doubt about the ability of the government's economic plans to stave off a deeper recession. Asked whether the government's intended plans will restore growth, 21.2% of respondents said yes, while 67.6% of respondents said no. What continues to alarm Mr. Nakagawa is that independents remain ill disposes to the Aso government and its plans.

The Aso government is still pushing on a string. It's going to take more than Mr. Aso talking about the government's "concrete plans" for restoring growth in a TV commercial to reverse the tide.

For now there is little for the DPJ but to sow the seeds of doubt in the public's mind about the efficacy of Mr. Aso's plans for the economy. It shouldn't go too far out on a limb to oppose them in the Diet — the public wants some response from the government — but it should be sure to raise lots of questions. It needs to undermine the government's case without being perceived as obstructionist.

Can Mr. Ozawa's party do it? I worry about the DPJ in moments like this, the moment after the government decides to postpone an election following a campaign by the DPJ to pressure the government to call a snap election. Mr. Ozawa has a tendency to let his focus slip. The DPJ must not panic. It must not try to force a showdown. Let Mr. Aso continue to push on the string.

In the meantime, keep making the case that the DPJ is more in touch with the public.


Derek said...

As long as you're worshipping the golden calf of DPJ populism, please enlighten us with an explanation of how their plans to deficit spend are more beneficial than those of the LDP.

Don't get me wrong, the LDP is being stupid as always, and the promises to distribute garbage bags of money to the masses from both sides are either ridiculous or terribly ill-advised.

The way I see it, though, the LDP at least has a reformist wing, whereas the DPJ seems only to have a politician par excellence backed by a hodge-podge of politicians that are waiting to see before they make their actual agendas known. What's more, in a classic reversal, it is now the DPJ that has resorted to pushing such classic Japanese populist buttons as shaking hands with the noble and richly subsidized o-kome farmer. Progressive policies indeed.

As for the postponement of the election, my contacts tell me that many - perhaps most - LDP members are very displeased with it. The sagging public opinion of the current government is one important reason, but less publicized is one of simple finances: Any smart lower house member has already rented an election office from which to run their campaign in the inevitable election, since in the past few months the consensus was that it would happen. This office is invariably located in a highly visible part of their district, which means the rent is high. Such members are now faced with the expensive prospect of paying rent indefinitely on these offices, rather than search for a new one when the election again seems imminent. Therefore, unless a member is unusually well-funded, they probably prefer an election now rather than later, when public opinion is just as likely to be bad but their coffers are much more likely to be depleted.

Tobias Harris said...


"Worshiping at the golden calf of DPJ populism?"

My support for the DPJ has little to do with their spending plans being somehow inferior to the LDP's. I support the DPJ's taking power for two reasons: (1) it could hardly govern worse than the LDP has, and (2) Japan needs a proper rotation of governing parties. The LDP must be punished for its mistakes. Can you see an alternative to the DPJ?

Moreover, your claim that "at least the LDP has a reformist wing" is laughable. Did you fail to notice how the PM casually disregarded the Koizumians in divvying up posts, following his predecessors' efforts erase the Koizumi legacy? The DPJ's reform wing is admittedly little better, having failed to even muster a candidate to run against Ozawa. But to compare the LDP favorably to the DPJ on the basis of its having a reform wing? Rubbish.

Thank you for your tip from your contacts. Certainly confirms my suspicion that while Mr. Aso and his coterie would prefer to delay, the backbenchers are bleeding campaign funds. I suspect this election cycle will lead to a spate of corruption scandals down the road.

Adam said...

I just want to point out that Nakagawa Hidenao's speech was given in Fukushima City (福島市), and not Fukuda.

This can verified by reading the original text of the Asahi article link in the blog post.

Tobias Harris said...

Apparently I have Fukuda on the mind...