No magic bullet

The first opinion polls for the new cabinet are out, and the second Abe Cabinet’s unfavorable rating still top the favorable rating by a considerable margin.

In fact, both Mainichi and Asahi have recorded the same figures: 33% supportive, 53% opposed. Asking supporters why they valued the new cabinet, Mainichi records that 39% answered that they appreciated the entry of political heavyweights, and another 39% answered that they see the new cabinet as a sign of the desire to continue reform. Only 3% answered that the new cabinet demonstrates Abe’s leadership abilities. The leading responses among the unfavorable were that the new cabinet signifies a return to faction rule (31%) and does not show a willingness to continue reform (26%).

Asahi, meanwhile, asked whether Abe should serve out his term as LDP president or leave early. 41% of respondents favored his staying in office, 47% opposed — and among those who favored his staying, a whopping 72% gave the “passive” reply that “there is no other appropriate person.” Asahi also recorded for the LDP and the DPJ 25% and 32% support ratings respectively.

Yomiuri and Sankei have recorded higher support numbers, 44.2% and 40.5% respectively, but the responses to other questions show that the rise in support is not a measure of confidence in the premier. In Sankei, for example, more respondents (34.3%) said that they supported the new cabinet because there is no alternative than said they have confidence in Mr. Abe (25%). Whatever support the new cabinet enjoys is in spite of the prime minister, not because of him.

Sankei also recorded much higher support for the LDP compared to the DPJ: 38.8% to 25.6% in Sankei. (Yomiuri found support changed less than one percent since its last poll, with the LDP edging out the DPJ, 31.8% to 30.9%.)

In other words, it is not at all clear that the election has changed anything. The government still does not enjoy the confidence of the people, the prime minister is still governing on the basis of his party’s being unable to agree on a successor, and the opposition still does not command an overwhelming amount of support. Whatever the individual strengths of the new cabinet ministers, the government is still burdened by the Abe albatross, as Richard Lloyd Parry of the Times convincingly argues.

Fasten your seat belts for months, or years, of stasis, indecision, and otherwise ineffectual governance.

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