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Political world’s “rule” indicates optimum situation for holding general election

There is now widespread talk about the possibility of dissolving the House of Representatives. One rumor has it that a Lower House election will be held in April after the enactment of the FY17 budget. Behind these rumors is a widely known rule in Nagatacho. This rule indicates that the current situation is such that dissolution of the Lower House for a general election could take place anytime.


Although Prime Minister Shinzo Abe did not mention dissolution at all in his speech to the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) convention on March 5, his upbeat statements clearly pointed to the fact that he had this idea in mind.


The Nagatacho rule was developed by former chair of the LDP caucus in the House of Councillors, Mikio Aoki, based on his experience, and is dubbed the “Aoki rule (Aoki index).” The rule says that if the sum of the support ratings for the No. 1 ruling party and the cabinet drop below 50, the administration will soon fall out of power.


Results of the Sankei-FNN opinion polls roughly support this theory.


The Aoki index for the Abe cabinet at present is 95.7 (58.8% cabinet support rating + 36.9% LDP support rating) and the overall average for the second Abe cabinet so far is 92.2, way above the “danger zone.” The average for the past six months, in particular, is as high as 97.5.


Correlation of the Aoki index with elections shows the probability of the No. 1 ruling party increasing or decreasing its Diet seats.


Even though the Aoki index pointed to a stable administration, the No. 1 ruling party still lost seats in the Upper House election of July 2004 (the second Junichiro Koizumi cabinet’s index was 87.2), the Upper House election of July 2010 (Naoto Kan cabinet with an index of 73.5), and the Lower House election of December 2014 (second Abe cabinet with an index of 84.2).


On the other hand, the No. 1 party made significant gains in the Upper House election of July 2013 (second Abe cabinet’s index was 95.8) and the Upper House election of July 2016 (third Abe cabinet’s index was 84.2).


In terms of the increase or decrease of Diet seats, an index of 85 is just about the point of divergence for the No. 1 party. Therefore, the present situation in which the LDP’s predominance has been stable and the index is above this watershed is a perfect opportunity to dissolve the Diet.


However, Aoki, the namesake of the index, told his aides last January, when Abe decided not to dissolve the Lower House, that, “If an election is held, the LDP will lose 10-20 seats.” That was at a time when the Aoki index was above 100. It appears that Aoki was wary of complacency in light of the consistently high support ratings.


How will public opinion evolve from now on? Since this will also affect the strategy for Diet dissolution, the Abe cabinet will be following the Aoki index very closely. (Slightly abridged)

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