If the claim that the “LDP is still more popular than the DPJ” was one line regularly trotted out by LDP officials discussing the party’s electoral prospects, another was that “no matter how unpopular Mr. Fukuda gets, he’s still more popular than Ozawa Ichiro.” Even DPJ members have bought into this, as they fear that Mr. Ozawa will be a major electoral liability in urban and suburban districts. The LDP has assumed that as long as Mr. Ozawa is the head of the DPJ, it enjoys some cushion.
But no longer. Mainichi found that in a poll taken May 1 and 2, 18% of respondents said Mr. Ozawa would make a suitable prime minister, compared with 14% for Mr. Fukuda. That said, 63% replied that they find neither suitable. More strikingly, the same poll confirmed the previous Mainichi poll’s finding that the DPJ’s support is now greater than the LDP’s: the DPJ’s support rose eleven points to 51%, the LDP’s dropped twelve points to 24%.
As with previous polls showing a shift away from the LDP, this poll is significant because it deprives the prime minister of yet another argument justifying his continuing in office. It provides Mr. Fukuda’s would-be successors with more evidence demonstrating why his premiership should end sooner rather than later.
In the midst of these latest blows, Yamasaki Taku, head of his eponymous faction, is arguing that the prime minister should reshuffle his cabinet following the G8 summit. Do Mr. Yamasaki and Mr. Fukuda really believe that the prime minister’s problems lie in the members of his cabinet, as opposed to his broken party, a recalcitrant bureaucracy, and the prime minister’s leadership deficiencies, which prevent him from surmounting these obstacles? I wonder whether the LDP would go along with a cabinet reshuffle, or whether LDP members — and not just Aso Taro and other leadership candidates — would call for a reshuffle that starts at the very top.