Friday, May 21, 2010

Forecasting the Summer Upper-House Election

Big losses for DPJ, rebound for LDP, progress for Your Party

The trend for 2010 is the opposite of the trend for 2009. It's quite likely that the Democratic Party of Japan and the Hatoyama administration are going to suffer a big loss.

I estimated the outcome of the 2010 upper house election this summer based on opinion polls. There are 242 seats in the upper house. Half of these, or 121 seats, are up for election every three years. Of that half, 48 are decided through proportional representation and 73 are through direct elections.

Of the 48 proportional seats, the top two parties will take about 30. The remaining 18 will be split among New Komeito, the Japan Communist Party, Your Party, the Social Democrats, People's New Party and other parties. While polls show the DPJ with a small lead, as the election nears, that lead will shrink. I forecast that the proportional seats will go this way: DPJ, 15; LDP, 15; Komeito, six; Your Party, eight; Communists, three; Social Democrats, one.

As for the direct elections, I see Tokyo's five seats split equally among the DPJ, LDP, Komeito, Your Party and the Communists. As for the 15 seats in the three-seat districts (Saitama, Chiba, Kanagawa, Aichi, Osaka), I see it breaking down this way: DPJ, five; LDP, five; Komeito, two; Your Party, three. The 24 seats in the two-seat districts (Hokkaido, Miyagi, Fukushima, Ibaraki, Niigata, Nagano, Gifu, Shizuoka, Kyoto, Hyogo, Hiroshima, Fukuoka) will be split 12-12 by the DPJ and the LDP, I predict.

The upper-house showdown will occur in the 29 single-seat districts. The DPJ faces an inevitable battle here. The dissatisfaction with and distrust of the Hatoyama administration is growing because of its decision to disregard rural communities when making policy. Here is where the election will be decided.

Prefectures where the DPJ is likely to win (based on recent opinion polls) are Iwate, Tochigi, Nara, Tokushima, Kochi and Oita — a total of six. Another five prefectures — Yamagata, Yamanashi, Mie, Shiga and Okinawa — are too close to call between the DPJ and the LDP. The remaining 18 prefectures — Aomori, Akita, Gunma, Toyama, Ishikawa, Fukui, Wakayama, Tottori, Shimane, Okayama, Yamaguchi, Kagawa, Ehime, Saga, Nagasaki, Kumamoto, Miyazaki and Kagoshima — are likely to go to the LDP.

My forecast is for the DPJ to take 42 seats, the LDP 53, Komeito nine, Your Party 12, the Communists four and the Social Democrats one. Of the five prefectures that are too close to call, I gave three to the DPJ and two to the LDP.

As of the middle of April, it's unlikely that there will be any new parties winning seats except for Your Party. It will corral the votes of people expecting something new. The DPJ leadership may try to mitigate its losses by announcing a lower-house election on the same day. If it can keep 241 seats in the lower house, the Ozawa system will remain intact. But the DPJ faces a big problem over whether the Ozawa system will win support or bring on repudiation. The DPJ is the Party of Ichiro Ozawa.

The debate about whether to hold an upper- and lower-house election will begin to get lively. They'll release trial balloons while debating the negative points of an election of both houses until the likelihood of a general election grows. In the end, they will likely opt to hold the election for both houses.