Tuesday, June 12, 2012

The Illusion of Choice

"What's the point of fighting for his right to have babies, when he can't have babies?

- Reg, Life of Brian (1979)
NHK (J - Time Sensitive) and Fuji TV (J - Time Sensitive) released the results of their latest random dial public opinion polls last night.

The pollsters found that:

- The popularity of the Cabinet remains mired in the zone of mediocrity, indicating the Prime Minister received no bounce for ridding his Cabinet of its most troublesome members.

Do your support or not support the Noda Cabinet?

Support 27%
Do not support 51%

Fuji TV
Support 28%
Do not support 61%

- That anti-nuclear power feelings in the country are not visceral, at least not on the national level, and do not extend to a continued moratorium on the restart of Kansai Electric Power's Oi reactors.

Do you agree with the prime minister's statement on Friday that the restart of the Oi nuclear reactors is necessary to protect the livelihood and security of Japan?

Agree 31%
Disagree 27%
Neither 37%

Fuji TV
Are you in favor of a restart of the Oi reactors?

In favor 49%
Opposed 43%

- That the country is once again favoring an early election, after backing off earlier this year.

When should the next House of Representatives election be held?


As soon as possible 20%
Before the September leadership elections of the DPJ and the LDP 15%
Before the year's end 21%
At the end of the current Diet's tenure 36%

Fuji TV

Summer this year 27%
Before the year's end 26%
At the end of the current Diet's tenure 34%

As to who would prevail in an early elections, one has to consult other survey results. The Kyodo poll of June 4-5, which found support for the Noda Cabinet at 32%, makes for grim reading for the ruling Democratic Party of Japan.

Which party would you vote for in the proportional seat selection of the next House of Representatives election?

DPJ 16%
LDP 30%
Your Party 7%
New Komeito 4%
Communist 4%
Socialist 2%
Other 5%
Do not know/no response 33%

Given party support numbers like these, the probability that Prime Minister Noda will call a snap election is zero. He will not lead his party into oblivion.

Nevertheless, the news media dutifully reports that in his Diet testimony yesterday Noda signaled that should the bills raising the consumption not pass during this Diet session, he might ask the Emperor to dissolve the Diet, triggering elections. The prime minister was purportedly cracking the whip at the anti-tax forces in his own party, most of whom are allied with former party leader Ozawa Ichiro and many of whom would lose their seats should an election be called tomorrow. (J)

Except of course, that the Diet cannot be dissolved tomorrow. Technically the emperor could dissolve the present House of Representatives but the result would be the implosion of the 1946 Constitution.

My bet is that the Heisei emperor will not honor a request to dissolve the Diet -- a refusal that itself would trigger a constitutional crisis.

Indeed blessed land's continuing constitutional constipation and the ruling party's abysmal poll numbers combine to form a blockage rendering public opinion largely moot. The public may dislike or hate certain decisions the government is making. However, that displeasure has no outlet. Unless an alliance is forged in between Ozawa's followers and the LDP -- a pact that the LDP, having once concluded with Ozawa, is determined to never conclude again -- nothing can budge the Noda government from its perch.

So while the poll takers continue to take the pulse of the people, the opinions expressed have no impact on the government's actions.

It is the illusion of choice.

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