Saturday, August 29, 2009

The last night of LDP rule?

This evening I ventured over to Ikebukuro, where Prime Minister Aso Taro and DPJ leader Hatoyama Yukio were having dueling rallies on opposite sides of Ikebukuro station.

I did not stay long at the LDP rally. Located on the east side of the station, the crowd was gathered on sidewalks around the roundabout, and there was barely enough room to move, let alone listen to the speeches comfortably. What I did notice was that the crowd was silent, almost eerily silent. The politicians introducing Aso, who had not yet appeared when I was there, were certainly trying to stir the crowd, but there was not the slightest bit of applause when one would have expected it.

Not surprisingly, given the emphasis that Aso has placed on defending the flag during the the campaign, the LDP adopted the "put out more flags" approach Saturday evening — spectators may not have been applauding, but they did wave their flags occasionally.

The scene was different on the west side of the station, where Hatoyama addressed a crowd gathered in the park near the west exit.

It's hard to say which side had more people, although it's safe to say that the crowd for Hatoyama was at least as big as the crowd for Aso. And it was certainly engaged.

I did find it interesting that Hatoyama singled out the LDP's negative campaigning in his speech, which otherwise was his standard speech based on the contents of the DPJ's manifesto (which had, of course, been distributed to those in attendance).

Aso naturally stressed the themes that he has stressed throughout the campaign: the ability of the LDP to defend Japan from enemies abroad and economic stagnation at home.

This was the last gasp of an LDP prime minister before submitting himself to the judgment of a public that, if the polls are to be believed, have tired of his party after decades of nearly uninterrupted rule. Asahi reports that roughly 10.9 million people voted early this year, roughly 10% of the electorate and a 63% increase over 2005. It is difficult to see how that is an encouraging sign for the LDP. Yomiuri's last poll found the DPJ's commanding lead unchanged, its figures nearly double the LDP's in most categories. Aso, optimistic to the last, is convinced that the race will be decided in the last two percent, that a come-from-behind victory for the LDP is possible because, he claimed, the parties are running neck and neck in many districts. I would imagine that other LDP leaders, many of them fighting for their political lives, would not agree with Aso's assessment.

The long campaign is finally at an end.

1 comment:

Joel said...

Thanks for this timely and interesting post. It will be fascinating to see how it pans out later today. My wife will be counting ballots here in Mie-ken from 8-12pm and she's agreed to do over time. I'm ready to bet that given the unprecedented voter turn out, they'll be counting well into the wee hours of Monday.

A very good potted history of Japanese politics from ABC radio's Rear Vision Program can be heard HERE

provides a context that I was largely ignorant of.


Joel in Yokkaichi