Parliamentary elections here in Japan today. (Actually, unless you’re Amritas, you probably want this link). There are 120-odd Diet seats up for election. The magic number for Koizumi’s LDP base to stay solid is 51 seats won. CNN says:
Now he is struggling and his ratings have plunged to just 40 percent after he decided to keep Japanese troops in Iraq and pushed through an unpopular bill to reform the country’s pension system.
The beleaguered system is unable to pay for its aging population and Koizumi’s answer was to introduce legislation that increases payments and cuts payouts.
They were necessary reforms, Koizumi says, but it was not a popular policy.
On Iraq, the public is deeply divided over the wisdom of Koizumi’s ambitious deployment — Japan’s riskiest mission since WWII.
When Koizumi announced that troops would be staying on after the Iraqi handover — without consulting lawmakers — the public was not pleased.
“The government is abusing its power. Since they represent the people of Japan, they should stand by us,” voter Hiroko Furuya says.
The Japanese are clearly unhappy with Koizumi, but few are impressed with the opposition either. The result is that a chunk of former Koizumi supporters are now undecided.
The problem is that Japanese voters are like voters everywhere. At the bunting-and-motivational-speech stage, it’s easy for 80% of them to approve of a candidate that represents change. When he’s in office and actually wants to, you know, change things, it’s a different story. That’s not to say that I’m necessarily all that hot on the way the National Pension scheme is being reformed. It’s just that there’s no way to fix the damned thing without taking goodies away from some constituency or other, and most Japanese people (especially the appointed, unaccountable bureaucrats who actually run the place) would drop dead at the merest hint of privatizing it. Maybe they could just invest the whole thing in Mitsubishi Motors stock; then the whole problem, along with all the money, would disappear and we could start over. In any case, at least making contributors kick in more money and beneficiaries take less has the equal-treatment virtue of screwing everyone over.
Another thing to bear in mind is that, through the post-Nakasone ’80’s and ’90’s, Japan went through Prime Ministers faster than Madonna went through shades of Clairol. A lot of Japanese people don’t feel that Koizumi fixed everything he talked about fixing and were opposed to the deployment of SDF troops in Iraq, but they’re used to him, they’re suspicious of the old guard of the LDP, and the economy has been pretty okay. It’ll be interesting to see what the final count is.
Added at 20:00-ish: I’m apparently much too used to CNN’s airbrush-everything style. When I cut and pasted from the article above, I didn’t even notice that the SDF Iraq deployment was referred to as “Japan’s riskiest mission since WWII.” World War II was a…risky…mission…for the…Japanese? My sainted aunt.