The “October 31 General Election” is a very short race. The public’s interest in the first full-scale national election since the outbreak of the new coronavirus has been high, but this is not necessarily the case. The speedy dissolution of the Fumio Kishida administration, which got off to a slow start, has limited the time available to read and understand the promises of each party.
After the inauguration of the Kishida administration, the results of public opinion polls conducted by the mass media were shocking. The approval ratings for the cabinet were 45% for the Asahi Shimbun, 49% for the Mainichi Shimbun, and 40.3% for Jiji Press. “The results of the public opinion polls conducted by the media companies were shocking.
According to a survey conducted by NHK between August 8 and 10, 52% of respondents said they would definitely go to the polls to vote in the lower house election. The percentage is high among those who support the ruling party (60%) and those who support the opposition party (73%), while the percentage of those who do not support the ruling party is only 40%. Only 25% of respondents were “very interested” in the lower house election, a trend similar to that of the 2019 upper house election, when 49% said they would definitely go and 19% said they were “very interested. Incidentally, the voter turnout rate in the last election was 48.80%, the second lowest after the 44.42% in the 1995 election.
Voter turnout in national elections has always been low: 53.68% in the 2017 lower house election, the second lowest in the postwar era; 52.66% in the 2014 lower house election, the lowest in the postwar era. There is not enough material to negate the low voter turnout in this general election as well.
In addition, while many citizens cite “economic and fiscal policies” and “economy and employment” as the policy issues they will focus on in this general election, a survey by the Yomiuri Shimbun shows that 52% of respondents have “no expectations” for Prime Minister Kishida’s “new capitalism.
Mr. Kenta Sato, who specializes in trend analysis using social networking sites, said, “The promises of each party that are on a grand scale are conspicuous, but they are not necessarily expected and the heat is not high. In general, it has been said that a low voter turnout would work to the advantage of the LDP, which excels at organizational warfare, but this is not necessarily the case these days. If the independents turn away, the result will be different.
So what will be the “real focus” of this general election? This writer obtained a survey of the situation in each electoral district, reportedly conducted by the LDP in October and by the Ritsumeikan in September. I asked a reporter from the political section of a national newspaper in charge of elections to analyze the results, and came up with a shocking prediction that surprised me: “No way, that big shot…”.
The battle between Harumi Yoshida of the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan (Rikken DPJ) and Nobuteru Ishihara, former secretary general of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), who has won consecutive elections in Tokyo’s 8th district, is attracting attention on a “national level. When Taro Yamamoto, the head of the Reizawa Shinsengumi, temporarily announced his candidacy, there was an outpouring of sympathy, especially from Yoshida’s supporters, who thought he would be urged to withdraw from the race on the grounds of the opposition party’s joint struggle, and Yamamoto withdrew from the race in this constituency. This process was closely watched, and inevitably, voters in this constituency became more interested in this election. The Ishihara faction’s chairman is also expected to face a tough battle in this “slugfest”…
In Tokyo’s 18th district, a former “subordinate” is challenging former Prime Minister Naoto Kan of the Constitutional Democratic Party. Akihisa Nagashima, who served as parliamentary secretary for defense in Kan’s administration when he was a member of the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), has “switched” constituencies from the LDP to the LDP, and is fighting a fierce battle by inviting a high-profile cheerleader. It is expected that Kan, who was the driving force behind the election, will not let his guard down in this election.
While the weekly magazines are giving incumbent ministers “A” grades in their predictions for the election, the LDP’s Tsunesaburo Nimei, Minister of Reconstruction and Minister of State for Northern Okinawa, who joined the Kishida cabinet for the first time, is expected to have a tough time in Okinawa’s 4th district. According to various surveys, he is expected to have a close race with Toru Kaneshiro of the Constitutional Democratic Party.
Also, Takuya Hirai, the former LDP minister in charge of digital affairs who took charge of the Digital Agency launched on September 1, is predicted to have an even fight with Junya Ogawa of the Rikken Democratic Party in Kagawa’s 1st district. The Restoration Party is planning to field Yoriko Machikawa, and I wonder if this will be a confusing factor. Even before the election, a fierce battle between the two parties has been seen.
In January this year, Jun Matsumoto, former disaster prevention minister and independent, left the LDP after being criticized for visiting a club in Ginza, Tokyo, during the declaration of a state of emergency due to the spread of a new corona infection. Matsumoto, who is known as one of the closest aides to LDP Vice President Taro Aso, is facing an uphill battle in Kanagawa’s 1st district against Go Shinohara of the Rikken Democratic Party. He will not be able to return to the party before the dissolution of the House of Representatives, and if he is defeated, there will be no way for him to return to proportional representation.
Takashi Otsuka, who, like Matsumoto, was forced to leave the Liberal Democratic Party, has decided not to run. Taido Tanose (Nara’s 3rd district) is making steady progress in his race, and the “three Ginza brothers” are now three different people.
The “Legendary Legislators” who once wielded power are also being pushed back hard. Ichiro Ozawa of the Constitutional Democratic Party (Rikken DPJ), who showed his prowess as secretary general of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and achieved a change of government from the LDP after leaving the party. In Iwate’s 3rd district, he was elected 17 times in a row, although the last time he ran as an independent. This time, however, Takashi Fujiwara of the Liberal Democratic Party is also in the hunt. While it is said that he will not have a hard time, the tension in Ozawa’s camp seems to be rising as he will be facing the announcement day in his hometown for the first time since he was first elected.
Kishiro Nakamura, a former minister of construction, has never lost a single election since he was first elected in 1976. He has been elected as an independent, but this time he is running for the Rikken Democratic Party. In Ibaraki’s 7th district, where Keiko Nagaoka, former vice minister of education and science of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), is challenging this “undefeated man,” the New Komeito Party, which had endorsed Nakamura, has switched its support to Nagaoka this time, aiming for a big win in a tight race with local leaders. It will be interesting to see whether Mr. Nakamura can maintain his “Nakamura Kingdom” in cooperation with the Communist Party, which has decided not to endorse him.
In spite of the media hijacking of the LDP presidential election for nearly a month after the Tokyo Olympics, the LDP has not gained the same momentum as during the Shinzo Abe administration. The opposition parties are also losing momentum due to gaffes and confusion over the coordination of candidates.
With the public’s interest in the short-term battle for the corona disaster not yet very high, could something “unexpected” happen?
Reporting and writing： Kenichi Ogura
Director, ITOMOS Research Institute
Photo: Kyodo News： Kyodo News