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Why Abe’s LDP dominates the political scene

(Sankei: February 23, 2016 – p. 2)

 

 In the opinion poll jointly conducted by the Sankei Shimbun and Fuji News Network (FNN) [on Feb. 20–21], it was clear once again that the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) led by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe “dominates” the political scene. In addition to the series of scandals involving cabinet ministers and LDP Diet members, adverse winds are blowing for “Abenomics,” the Prime Minister’s economic policy package, as witnessed by the rapid drop in stocks and the appreciation of the yen. Nonetheless, the support ratings for both the cabinet and the LDP remain strong. This casts doubts on the “prevalent political theory” that “support for the administration plunges when the economy slows down.”

 

 In the public opinion poll, 59.6% of respondents said that they “do not approve” of the Prime Minister’s economic policies, substantially surpassing those who “approve” (30.9%). A total of 79.1% of pollees said that “they do not have a tangible sense” of economic recovery under the Abe administration, exceeding those who said that “they do have a tangible sense” of economic recovery (15.8%) by an overwhelming margin. The public indeed takes a harsh view of the Prime Minister’s economic policies.

 

 The Bank of Japan is working in concert with Abe to help Japan emerge from deflation. It has for the first time in history introduced negative interest rates. Yet, 66.3% of pollees said that they “do not have high expectations” for the negative interest rate policy, far outnumbering the 17.3% of pollees who said they “do have high expectations.” The reality is that pollees do not have high expectations for the economy either now or in the future.

 

 This pessimistic assessment of the economy, however, is not resulting directly in “nonsupport of the administration.” If we limit the target of our analysis to “those dissatisfied with the economy,” this trend becomes clear.

 

 Although the cabinet nonsupport rate in this group is 48.7%, almost a majority, the cabinet support rate is a steady 40.3%.

 

 When asked how they will vote in the proportional representation segment of the Upper House elections scheduled for July, 34.5% of this group said they would vote for the LDP; 15.8% said the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ); 8.0%, the Japanese Communist Party (JCP); and 5.6%, Initiatives from Osaka (Osaka Ishin no Kai). These percentages are not significantly different from the figures for all poll respondents. Asked whether they thought it would be desirable for the ruling parties to maintain a majority in the Upper House elections, members of this group were almost evenly divided with 46.3% saying it would be desirable and 47.7% saying it would not be.

 

 The figures show once again that the scandals have had a limited impact. Even among those who said that they would “factor in” the scandals and gaffes by cabinet ministers and other parliamentarians when voting in this summer’s elections for the House of Councillors, 35.2% said that they would vote for the LDP in the proportional representation segment of the election. This figure is higher than the total of pollees (32.0%) saying they would vote for one of five opposition parties (DPJ, JCP, Japan Innovation Party, Social Democratic Party, People’s Life Party) that have confirmed that they will cooperate in the Upper House elections.

 

 A high-ranking LDP officer commented on this, saying, “This is likely because the opposition parties do nothing more than question [the LDP] when there are scandals and inappropriate remarks. The parties are not communicating to the people what they plan to do.” This is seen as indicating that the people do not have greater expectations for the opposition parties than for the LDP even with its continual scandals.

 

 At a press conference on Feb. 22, LDP Secretary-General Sadakazu Tanigaki said, “It’s hard to comment on the fluctuations in the figures.” “I feel that [the series of inappropriate statements, etc.] are gradually starting to deal a body blow to the party. We need to be more careful.”

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