Mainichi‘s latest poll recorded an eleven point drop in the cabinet’s approval rating to 46%, with disapproval rising five points to 30%. The honeymoon, it seems, is over. Mainichi also asked about support for the MSDF refueling mission and found that support was more or less unchanged, falling one point to 48% (with those opposed rising by one point to 43%). Interestingly, when asked their reasons for supporting the mission, respondents overwhelmingly (65%) said it was because international contributions are important, as opposed to only 18% of respondents saying it was necessary to prevent a worsening of relations between the US and Japan. (Oh, and DPJ supporters are not only overwhelmingly opposed to the MSDF mission, but also to Japanese contributions to ISAF — what was Ozawa thinking?)
While the public remains generally in favor of the government’s position, the LDP should be worried that support isn’t growing. Once the bill hits the Upper House — LDP secretary-general Ibuki Bunmei insists it will — the LDP will have a hard enough time retaining the support it has in the face of an endless parade of witnesses and revelations exhibiting how poorly managed the MSDF operation has been.
The DPJ is momentarily well placed to exploit the government’s growing weakness. But one should not go too far in praising the DPJ. Judging by Mr. Maehara’s appearance on The Sunday Project — as described by Jun Okumura — it seems that the DPJ is back to being strictly negative following Mr. Ozawa’s (politically) ill-considered statement of support for JSDF participation in ISAF. Not only did Mr. Maehara provide no clear statement on the party’s plans for constructive legislation, but he also further undermined Mr. Ozawa’s leadership by suggesting that the party president’s comments on the unconstitutionality of the MSDF mission were Mr. Ozawa’s personal opinions and not party policy. The DPJ could come out on top in the legislative battle, but I’m not sure what that means, considering that Mr. Ozawa must present a realistic, constructive alternative that can challenge the persistent meme that the DPJ is as of yet unfit to govern while trapped between rank-and-file support opposed to all options on the table (see above), an Upper House caucus sympathetic to the views of the party’s supporters, and the party’s young hawks.
As things stand now, both the LDP and the DPJ are in purely reactive stances. Neither seems to have a clear strategy; each party is essentially relying on the other to make mistakes, with the party that makes more and bigger mistakes losing.
No wonder former PM Nakasone Yasuhiro is already talking about the post-Fukuda era, with his candidate of choice being “an able politician like Aso Taro.”