Sunday, July 11, 2010

Election Time

It's election day in Japan today. Rain is pouring over Osaka, which means low turnout and a boost for the DPJ as protest voters stay home - or a loss for the DPJ as disillusioned supporters don't bother voting. Whichever happens, they will not get an outright majority in the upper house, but will have to refine their art of coalition governing. With whom is an open question; but when actual power is in the offing there's rarely any shortage of willing candidates.

Meanwhile, in Sweden the election campaign proper has kicked off with the traditional Almedalen Week. Every year around this time - and especially on election years - all the major parties, press and television, lobbyists, economic and political wonks, NPO's and political organizations descend on Almedalen1 in Visby on the island of Gotland, a week of policy speeches, election promises, planted leaks, badmouthing your opponents and so on. Think of it as a combination of election manifesto presentations and months worth of countrywide speaker-van platitudes and blog punditry all concentrated into one place and a few days.

I haven't had the energy or time to really follow it, as there's just too much dross to wade through. A couple of things did stand out to me:

the anti-EU Communist party - and to a lesser extent the EU-sceptical Green Party - have had to completely abandon their stance in the interest of the coalition with the Social Democrats. That's going to disappoint a fair number of their more recent supporters, as leaving EU has been a high-profile vote-getter issue for them. It also means there is no mainstream party left for those EU sceptics - a dwindling number, but still - that want concrete steps toward leaving the union.

The Moderates and Social Democrats are both perfecting the art of "triangulation", and taking over each other's political issues. A few more election cycles like this and they'll be all but completely interchangeable.

Also, political commentators seem to mostly agree that the Christian Democrats attempt to widen their support base by talking about "real people" isn't working; and that reminding people about their religious origins and basis of their policies is off-putting to voters. So, on one hand they can't rally their base (the kind of people who think the Earth is 4000 years old) without scaring off moderate, non-religious conservatives, and they seem unable to actually build a non-sectarian moral conservative base on the other. And they can't simply rely on their base the way New Komeito does, as it's simply not large enough to get over the 4% limit and give them a seat in parliament. They spent 20 years out of parliament before they learned they had to reach beyond their religious base, and they'll get dumped outside again the moment they forget.

#1 Why Almedalen? One Prime Minister liked to take his summer vacation on Gotland, and started giving a summer speech to the local party faithful since he was there anyway. The event grew over time into this unofficial election kick-off. It's a shame, in a way, that he didn't like northern trekking - it would've been fun to see a thousand-people lemming train of politicians, lobbyists and press in plaid shirts and backpacks slowly working their way over some bare mountain pass in the far northern mountains every year.

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