No one benefits from the pensions scandal?

The Asahi Shimbun published a chart today that shows public opinion regarding responses to the the pensions crisis (sadly, it does not appear to be online).

Asked if they appreciated the Abe Cabinet’s response to the pensions scandal, 59% of respondents said they did not appreciate it to 24% who did.

That’s not so surprising, but the following is:

Asked if they appreciate how the DPJ has wrestled with the pensions scandal, 45% said they did not appreciate it to 27% who said that they did.

The poll also shows that insecurity caused by the scandal has diminished only slightly.

Consider that given a scandal of massive proportions, the DPJ still cannot spark enthusiasm among voters for its program. Consider also that despite the three years since the last Upper House election, the LDP and the DPJ are in the exact same range of popularity that they were a month before the election three years ago (2004, DPJ-25% to LDP-24%; 2007, DPJ-25% to LDP-19%).

I think this illustrates a point I made yesterday: the public doubts the entire political class. After the mismanagement of the post-bubble economy, the clumsy responses to the Hanshin earthquake and the Aum subway attack, the worsening financial crisis in the late 1990s, and then the tease that was Koizumi, the Japanese people have had enough (and who can blame them). The pensions scandal is just another brick in the wall, and it was a mistake to assume that it would automatically cause a surge of support for the DPJ. And so while the LDP feels the loss of public trust more acutely than other party, clearly voters are not all that discriminating when it comes to casting doubt on Japan’s political class.

And so now that the Abe Cabinet’s “162 days of achievement” — the title of this week’s Abe mail magazine (I kid you not) — are over, the political environment will become a little more ambiguous, and more challenging for the DPJ. Stories about the government’s ramming bills through the Diet will be replaced by light-hearted stories about Koike Yuriko’s experiences in her new job (like her struggles to find what to wear to her first review of the troops). The emanation of decrees from the Kantei will be replaced by the realities of the campaign. Politics will become local, momentarily, with candidates and their supporters interacting with voters, calling in favors, emphasizing their incumbency and long service to the people. Remember, this is what the LDP is good at: the DPJ is still not even close to the LDP when it comes to local organization, although the gap has closed somewhat. While Abe will do his best to make life difficult for LDP candidates — an article the other day, in Yomiuri I believe, quoted an LDP candidate in Shikoku discussing how inconvenient the prime minister’s visit will be — in general the campaign machines will do their job, counteracting to some degree the pervasive gloom in the government camp.

The government may still be due for a blow, but a few weeks of softball news stories and asinine (dare I say apolitical) campaigning, combined with an election date selected to ensure that no one will be around to vote, may be enough to make the blow more like that of a pillow than a boxer’s first.

And yet the DPJ just revised its target upward from 50 to 55? (Over)confidence? Braggadocio?

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