The LDP looks to delay a general election

His poll numbers slipping (even in Yomiuri, in whose latest poll his approval rating fell 3.6% to 45.9% and his disapproval rating rose 5.2% to 38.6%), the financial system collapsing, the US “passing” Japan on North Korea, and the DPJ refusing to provide an issue with which the government can galvanize public opinion (for now), it is little wonder that Prime Minister Aso Taro is reconsidering calling an early election.

Due to the need for a second round of economic stimulus — I do hope the DPJ, even as it decides to cooperate, as I expect it eventually will, asks the obvious question of why the government needs a second stimulus package when the first one could have been altered to reflect the worsening economic situation — Mr. Aso seems to concur with the public that the government’s response to the economic crisis should take precedence over a general election. In the aforementioned Yomiuri poll some seventy percent of respondents said precisely that. Mr. Aso seems happy to oblige.

So too does the LDP. Koga Makoto, the LDP’s election strategy chief, suggested that in the current economic environment the LDP “cannot possibly consider” contesting an election. LDP elders are also citing the need to formulate a budget as a reason for delaying the election; if an election isn’t held by 16-23 Nov., the government should wait until March or September of next year.

The DPJ is, of course, irate over the idea of waiting until next year to square off with the LDP in a general election it thinks it can win.

But the DPJ should not panic yet. It is by no means guaranteed that the LDP will be able to use the next year to engineer a reversal. The soft support for Mr. Aso is the clearest sign yet that the LDP is running short on options. Even a second stimulus package may not be enough to save the LDP from an electoral defeat, in part because it is not clear how exactly the government will pay for a second stimulus package (that, and the government’s looming assumption of a greater share of the burden for pensions). After wracking up debts and mortgaging Japan’s future — and then avoiding a debate over how to fix the problem — the LDP seems to have discovered that it is nearing the end of its ability to find creative ways around the budget problem.

Which surely lends itself to the argument that maybe the DPJ deserves a chance at governing, which apparently 58% of respondents in a recent Yomiuri poll now believe.

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