More on the Japanese upper house election

The Monday morning quarterbacking has begun, maybe befitting a Monday morning.

Despite what the MSM (mainstream media) is saying, I don’t think that Prime Minister Kan’s consumption tax hike remark was the driving force behind the poor showing by Minshuto (DPJ) yesterday. I think Minshuto’s poor showing, as I said, is a result of the last ten months of goofiness and lack of progress on “regime change”.

The second influence is the implosion of the DPJ out in all the hinterland prefectures (single-seat constituencies). I saw a quick graphic on TV last night, and when I added those up this morning, I was surprised to find that the 29 single-seat districts went 21 to 8 for Jiminto (LDP). Minshuto only performed about as expected in the two-seat and three-seat districts, and Tokyo’s five went about the same way that many had projected, 2 for DPJ, one each for Komeito, LDP and the Your Party.

(I am going to start calling it the Your Party, like the New York Times does. It’s not necessarily your party, and so saying Your Party in English is a little confusing.)

The obvious analysis about the hinterland vote is that Komeito and other LDP-aligned small parties through their district seat power behind LDP. Whatever inroads the DPJ had made in 2004 and 2007 were washed away over the past year, and this would primarily be Ozawa’s fault, not Kan’s.

I highly doubt that the tax issue was as troubling there as the fear that the DPJ is an urban party that is not going to bring home to the bacon to the rural areas like the LDP used to. There simply was no compelling reason to vote for the DPJ candidate in these places. Prior to Kan becoming prime minister last month, there still was no compelling reason to vote for the DPJ there. Ozawa sold them a bill of goods–because the DPJ is really a party centered around the metropolitan areas–and this time farm country said, “no thank you”.

Even though, honestly, pension reform and family support payments would do more good for farm country than anything LDP could offer. But equally in America, the “conservative” Republican party gets its strongest vote in the states and regions that suck in tax money from U.S. metropolitan areas. So the Republicans talk about cutting government, and sell this idea in areas that depend the most upon government. Maybe no surprise in Japan, then, that the party that could deliver the cash support is turned away in favor of the one that talks a nice line about “being conservative”.

And of course, the second major realization is that if DPJ won’t do bureaucratic and regulatory reform, other parties will come along and take the voters away from DPJ. That, to me, is the Your Party’s big success around the Kanto region, where they actually picked up two district seats.

Many commentators are calling the Your Party an offshoot of LDP, since its head, Watanabe, used to be in Jiminto. But I see the Your Party as a collection of disappointed (not disgruntled, disappointed) Minshuto voters.

The Minshuto officials who are visible and appear to be delivering, like Renho Murata, are very poplular. Renho was top of the list in Tokyo yesterday—not exactly a rejection of the DPJ, is it? But she is known for the commission that is reviewing waste in government, the jigyou shiwake. (We have been talking about this recently, in cybercircles among the expats, in connection with the wasteful JET Program.)

So I think once the numbers from yesterday are really looked at, everybody can agree that the tax issue was something way down the list compared to the themes of reform and accountability for failure to reform. Additionally, that it better start becoming a country that takes care of people, not just talk about it.