Well, a few things:
I thought DPJ would get to 50, and the late news suggests they are going to have trouble even getting there. From what I can understand, the focus has been about the recent proposal that the consumption tax would have to go up to solve some of Japan’s problems,
I think the real problem is that the party got punished for all the screwing around that went on since so-called “seiken koutai” (regime change) in September 2009.
In effect, what Hatoyama and puppet-master Ozawa did was make the marginal Minshuto voter feel like a fool. So, as a result, these voters either stayed home today, or went and voted for other parties.
Secondly, I think Ozawa’s grand plan of running two DPJ candidates in districts with two openings was really stupid. It looks like, in Kanagawa, Chiba Keiko (this is Chiba of Kanagawa) got knocked out because of it. It was just a dumb strategy that reflected a certain amount of arrogance.
I have a feeling that Jiminto (LDP) did much better in the hinterlands of Japan than anyone planned. Why? Probably because of the whisper campaign. Most English-speaking commentators (or ones who translate Japanese) must focus on what has been said in public. But, as anyone who follows elections should know, it’s what’s NOT said that often is the persuasive thing.
I can imagine out in the rural areas, it went something like this:
“That Ozawa, he came out here and promised us a bunch of things. And what did we get?? The guys in now are no better than what we had with LDP, and at least with LDP we knew what we had!”
“Back when LDP had it, they knew how to play the Americans like a fiddle. Every deal, we came out ahead, and all we had to do was keep their expat sellouts fat and happy, and bow a lot and make symbolic deals with the stateside ones. But the guys in there NOW don’t know how to manage the Americans–and look at the result. One year of turbulence about a really stupid issue of where a military base should go!”
“They keep talking about eliminating wasteful concrete and other construction projects. What’s in it for us?”
(Repeat this for any income transfer out of Kantou into the hinterlands.)
This is why LDP is racking up 50 tonight, and the DPJ is trying to figure out what happened, if they aren’t just pointing fingers.
Watanabe’s “Minna no tou” (Your Party), meanwhile, stole the “seiken koutai” thunder as being a more credible reformer than the reformers who were put in there just ten months ago. It’s no stroke of genius to take a popular idea and run with it.
Maybe not surprisingly, all the mircoparties that were created in the past couple of months did no better than the crank parties. I figured one or two of them would siphon off seats. But the only guy who got a bloc was Watanabe, who had been at it for about a year already.
Minshuto can’t do anything on the non-budget side without getting some cooperation with the Upper House. Therefore, they need to put out feelers to the more credible minor parties. If they can’t get that, it’s going to be a rough three years.
I don’t think it’s likely that Minshuto would call an early general election, because they have such large numbers in the Lower House, which would be hard to repeat. (I’d say damn near impossible at this stage.)
Probably their best choice is to get into dialogues with Komeito and the successful breakaway Your Party to see what each wants. Surely one of the two would be willing to work with the ruling party on issues where the Upper House vote is required.