JIN-486 -- Voters call for economic salvation before election

J@pan Inc Newsletter
The 'JIN' J@pan Inc Newsletter
A weekly opinion piece on social, economic and political trends
in Japan.
Issue No. 486 Wednesday October 15, 2008, Tokyo

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It didn't take long for Prime Minister Taro Aso's new cabinet to
become less popular than when it was installed. The latest opinion
poll by the Yomiuri Shimbun shows that the new cabinet approval rating
is now at 45.9 percent, down 3.6 percentage points from late
September. The newspaper poll also reported that the cabinet's
disapproval rating rose 5.2 points up to 38.6 percent. It's nothing
earth shattering but despite all the distractions lately, the
government has still managed to lose the confidence of at least some
voters.

The poll came as the Nikkei 225 plunged nearly 10 percent on Friday,
24 percent in total last week. This was the worst week in the history
of the stock exchange. Maybe the poll would have been different after
the same stock index surged 14.15 percent on Tuesday. This,
incidentally, was the biggest single-day gain in the index's history.
According to analysts quoted in some of the Japanese media, this came
as a reaction to widespread government efforts across the globe to
bolster the world's financial system. The Japanese government was
proclaiming that their financial safety nets were in place, but
similar surges had been seen in other markets around the world,
indicating that it was part of a much broader trend.

The Yomiuri's poll showed that 70 percent of voters believed that an
economic stimulus package should take priority over elections. This is
in contrast to earlier polls which indicated that the majority of
voters were in favor of snap elections.

Another development over the weekend that may have been lost among all
the reports of financial Armageddon was the US government's decision
to take North Korea off the list of state sponsors for terrorism.

Aso downplayed the delisting and was quoted in Kyodo News as saying
that it would not be a "loss of leverage" in resolving the abduction
issue which continues to dog the Japanese government.

No doubt the ongoing abduction issue will again make its way into any
debate surrounding the next parliamentary elections. The removal of
North Korea from the terrorism blacklist will allow the state to again
have access to aid from places such as the World Bank. This will in
turn weaken the impact of Japan's sanctions against the nation. And
any dialogue between Pyongyang and Tokyo before the election would be
largely considered by North Korea as ineffectual due to the
uncertainty of just how long Aso will remain in power.

On the other side of the coin, opposition leader Ichiro Ozawa's health
came under the spotlight (well, it was reported on) with the
Democratic Party of Japan president spending a week in and out of
hospital.

The 66-year-old was hospitalized on October 6 due to complications
resulting from a cold. Ozawa was probably not at death's door though,
with the DPJ chief leaving the hospital on several occasions to attend
a Diet session and to appear on TV.

The opposition leader has largely been out of the headlines, as the
nation watches the LDP-led reaction to the financial crisis. The
government was criticized for its slow reaction to the fallout at the
end of the bubble era in the early 90s.

This time ' round the government seems to be moving swiftly to tackle
the chaos in the stock markets with cash injections and other
measures. The latest move may be for full protection of bank deposits.
According to a Bloomberg report yesterday, Aso has asked Finance
Minister Shoichi Nakagawa to look into the possible protection of
deposits.

So far, the government has not faired too badly in the opinion polls.
It will be interesting to see how Aso and Co.'s handling of the
financial crisis impacts on their popularity at election time. The
general consensus seems to be that any election should be announced
once some stability has returned on the economic front. It's a
no-brainer, but it is one of the main points of the Yomiuri poll.
Obviously, Aso would be mad to call an election at this stage. If he
and his ministers and advisors handle the current financial situation
well, they may actually manage to win the next election. But there is
a long way to go before then.

Michael Condon
Editor-in-chief

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The 9th METROPOLIS HALLOWEEN GLITTERBALL is on again!

In the seven years since its unholy birth, Metropolis'
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Japan's largest and most rockin' Halloween party!

The no-holds-barred celebration boasts a frighteningly fun
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With its signature open bar, food buffet and free-for-all
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