Is the Mainichi poll right?

Considerable discussion has surrounded a new Mainichi Shimbun poll showing that 46% of respondents desire a DPJ victory in a general election, compared with only 33% for the LDP.

The same poll also showed that respondents would overwhelmingly (51%) vote on the basis of “policy,” which may very well mean “pensions.” Only 3% say they would vote on the basis of “image.”

In light of this finding, I wonder what to make of the thinking of Tahara Soichiro, eminence grise of television political analysis.

In the January issue of Voice, Tahara has an article whose title pretty much says it all: “The DPJ will not take the government.” The reason? Ozawa Ichiro. (Like must monthly magazine articles, this article is not online.)

Tahara believes that Mr. Ozawa’s qualities as a leader make him entirely unfit to lead the DPJ to an election victory. Uncharitable to his enemies (unlike his mentors), maladroit at communicating a message to the public, and unwilling to consult others, Tahara is convinced that Mr. Ozawa will lead the DPJ to disaster — or at the very least, not to victory in a general election. He is especially critical of Mr. Ozawa’s scheming on a grand coalition with the LDP, given the LDP’s record of devouring parties that have joined it in coalitions. He pointed to the uproar over the mooted grand coalition as typical of Mr. Ozawa’s operating style: decided in secret, on the basis of reasons entirely his own. As Jun Okumura notes in this post, citing a Yomiuri article that broke down the DPJ’s factions, “The house, it seems, can still be divided, and Mr. Ozawa’s personality and old-school ways have little other to offer to party unity besides elective success.”

And what if success in a general election is not forthcoming?

Tahara thinks — and I am inclined to agree with him — that in the absence of a DPJ (or perhaps more accurately, opposition) victory, the much-vaunted political realignment will come to pass to resolve the nejire kokkai. He does not foresee the DPJ surviving in its current form if Mr. Ozawa cannot deliver his party into government by way of electoral victory (not a corrupt bargain with the LDP).

But if the Mainichi poll is right, and the voters are actually inclined to vote on the basis of policy over personality, then the DPJ might once again be in a position to profit from the LDP’s ongoing failures, only this time of course, the prize is the government. Given Mr. Ozawa’s negative image among Japanese voters — as illustrated in a Keio University study discussed in a different Yomiuri article from last week — the DPJ better hope that this is the case.

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