In a year that has been nothing but hurricane-strength headwinds for the LDP, the party has for the first time in months a wind at its back.
The talk of the day is, of course, the first opinion polls on the Fukuda cabinet, which show, across the board, a considerable boost for Mr. Fukuda and the LDP. Yomiuri found 57.5% support for the new cabinet, Mainichi also found 57% support (apparently the same support Fukuda the elder had upon his inauguration), Nikkei found 59% support, and Asahi, not surprisingly, found 53% support. Given the depths to which the Abe cabinet had sunk, I think these numbers are about as good as the LDP could have expected. The underlying weariness after the disappointments of the year of Abe has not dissipated, but the voters are at least willing to give Mr. Fukuda a chance, even if a majority of Asahi‘s respondents think Mr. Fukuda marks a return to the old LDP.
Mr. Fukuda, due to give his maiden speech to the Diet on October 1st, is already giving signs that, like Mr. Koizumi, he understands that the root of Japan’s economic and social problems is political. At a meeting with senior bureaucrats today, Mr. Fukuda emphasized that without the trust and confidence of the people, it will be impossible to execute reforms. Restoring confidence will depend on (to continue the maritime metaphor) Mr. Fukuda’s running a tight ship, preserving discipline in his cabinet and demanding that his government be accountable to the people. That alone will not guarantee success, but it will make Mr. Ozawa’s life that much more difficult.
You have the public and your party behind you Mr. Fukuda. Now what?