That sinking feeling

It’s a new month, the Diet session has wound down, and there is less than a month until the Upper House elections (and ten days to kouji, when candidates officially file, marking the beginning of the official campaign season).

And to start the month off right, here’s the result of a recent Mainichi poll showing that the Abe cabinet’s “disapprove” rating has risen to 52%, which Mainichi says is the highest unfavorable rating a cabinet has received since Mori’s cabinet in February 2001. Interestingly, the poll shows that among age groups, the disapproval rate among those seventy and above (57%) was actually the lowest among all age groups, despite the pensions scandal. (Those in their twenties disapproved at a rate of 83%, the most of any age group.)

The government, meanwhile, passed its desired legislation on administrative and pensions system reform late Friday, with opposition parties complaining that the government “rammed” legislation through with insufficient deliberation.

Will the posturing surrounding the extension of the Diet session actually make a difference to the electorate a month from now? I highly doubt it. That said, I have a sinking feeling that the public outrage over the pensions scandal visible over the past month is beginning to dissipate, that the government’s unpopularity is bottoming out, and that the governing coalition may well eke out a victory this month, a victory completely unmerited by its record since Abe assumed power last autumn.

For a recap, check out MTC’s note announcing his plans to take a leave of absence from blogging; this is Abe Shinzo’s Japan:

Instead, the NHK segment listed the steamrollered pieces of legislation – without ever mentioning that the legislation had passed only because Prime Minister Abe had had a House of Representatives supermajority GIVEN to him by Koizumi. Not one mention that Abe’s ideas had never ever been put to the test before the voters.

In this new narrative, a young leader in a hurry marched his party from triumph to triumph, winning by mid-May an approval rating of 50% for his brave leadership. It was then that fate–cold, malicious fate, struck the young man a pair of cruel blows–in the form of the discovery of the separation of 50 million pension accounts from their owners and the suicide of Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Matsuoka Toshikatsu.

Since suffering these indignities, Abe has fought back, extending the Diet session to win back the people’s confidence, certain that he could win the battles for his program and would not rest–yeah that he would even suffer withering criticism–in order to get his bills passed–again without the barest hint of the fact that with his supermajority, Abe could have forced the passage of legislation declaring Urdu the national language if he had wanted it badly enough.

And all through this false retelling of the past–not the distant past, THE LAST SIX MONTHS–the repeated image shown was Abe’s face as he watched the DPJ try to fight back with parliamentary procedures–censure motions, a no-confidence motion–all doomed to fail.

The half-smile on the face of a man who had never had to fight for a single thing in his entire life–who had had everything handed to him by others – wanly looking on as the Lilliputian opposition wailed and flailed about helplessly.

The smug, self-satisfied smirk on the face of Abe Shinzō, prime minister of Japan.

The joke was on us…and it wasn’t funny.

The election returns are far from guaranteed at this point, and the opposition parties could not have asked for more gifts from the government to help it fight the campaign — it may even be theirs to lose. But Abe and company cannot yet be counted out.

We may be looking at that smug, self-satisfied smirk for years to come.

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