A few figures struck me as particularly important.
It will be an election based on direct contests between the LDP and the DPJ: While there are of course other parties in the political system — and several political entrepreneurs think that there’s room for a couple more — this general election will confirm the trend in favor of a two-party system. Yomiuri reports that 122 of 300 single-member districts will feature only LDP and DPJ candidates, five times more than in 2005. (I’m assuming that Yomiuri is ignoring the Happiness Realization Party, which is fine, because I am too in my assessment of the election.)
59 candidates: The DPJ is fielding fifty-nine PR candidates this year, that is, candidates running solely in PR districts and not simultaneously as SMD and PR candidates. Fifty-nine, up from ten in 2005. The LDP has only thirty-seven candidates running solely as PR candidates. Clearly that DPJ expects that it won’t have all too many losing candidates, who are ranked at the top of the list according to the narrowness of their defeat in their SMDs. With fifty-nine candidates to rank, little wonder that the DPJ was late in announcing its PR lists.
46 to 27; 49.4 to 55.5; 32 to 109: These figures are for the number of female candidates in the DPJ and the LDP, the average age of DPJ and LDP candidates, and the number of “hereditary” DPJ and LDP candidates. That DPJ candidates have a greater tendency to be female, young, and not related to a former Diet member says much about the DPJ relative to the LDP (although forty-six women is still too low considering that the party is fielding 330 candidates). The DPJ — Ozawa Ichiro in particular — has carefully cultivated the party’s candidates this year, but symbolically speaking, the DPJ’s candidates at least look different from the LDP.
Another figure worth mentioning is 54 to 34, the number of former bureaucrats among LDP and DPJ candidates. The DPJ figure is up from 25, the LDP figure down from 57. It’s a relatively small shift, but an important one: not only is the DPJ more attractive to former bureaucrats, but unlike the old LDP, which was a destination for retiring bureaucrats, the DPJ is attracting bureaucrats voluntarily leaving ministries early in their careers. Should the DPJ win and form a government, these former bureaucrats will be an asset from the government, at the very least serving as pipelines back to the former colleagues.