Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Chiba Voters Pick Their Own Fool

It would be unfair to criticize Chiba Prefecture voters overmuch for selecting a nearly 60-years old adolescent former actor for their governor, after two rounds of the super serious Dōmoto Akiko.

In 1995, the Tokyo and Osaka voters elected television comedians Aoshima Yukio and "Knock" Yokoyama as the governors of the then two largest prefectures (Kanagawa has since pipped Osaka for the title of #2 in terms of population). Aoshima, though rendered nearly powerless during his term by the Tokyo Metropolitan District council, still is remembered fondly for his intense humility and decency. Yokoyama is remembered for being a blockhead and for his humiliation in a sexual harrassment scandal.

In 2000 Nagano Prefecture elected Tanaka Yasuo, a celebrity novelist known for his soft porn columns for a major lads magazine, to the first of two terms.

Chiba Prefecture will be joining a fun club. Tokyo and Osaka are ruled by celebrity governors: novelist and right wing gadfly Ishihara Shintarō and celebrity lawyer and television commentator Hashimoto Tōru. Miyazaki Prefecture, where the previous governor just got sent to the pokey, has the irrepressible former television comedian Higashikokubaru Hideo as its leader.

Rather than mull over how much the Chiba gubernatorial election result reflects public unhappiness with Democratic Party of Japan leader Ozawa Ichirō, I will pass off Morita's win as reflecting renewed exhaustion with regular politicians and politics. We are back where we were in the pre-Koizumi era, where the public was sick to death with the norm.

Furthermore, with the exception of Yokoyama, the celebrity governors have turned out to be rather better than average in their performance. They have been able to use their popularity to promote 1) their prefectures and 2) hard-nosed policies. Whether due to the governor's ability to claim legitimacy from public popularity or simply because the celebrity governors have alternate means of employment should they fail, they have managed to ram down the throats of the fossilized prefectural assemblies reforms and budget cuts that seasoned political observers have deemed to be "impossible" to impose.

Which does not mean I do not find this series of photos of Morita Kensaku's celebrations of his victory boding no good for the citizens of Chiba.


Jan Moren said...

I was pretty skeptical at the time, and I still find him off-putting personally, but Hashimoto has largely turned out to be an asset for Osaka prefecture. I certainly don't agree with every policy proposal he's had (there's a multiple-river dam boondoggle he fortunately seems unable to push forward) but overall he' been good for Osaka - unlike previous occupants in that office who were mostly good for their own pockets and the pockets of their cronies.

Anonymous said...

Pick your own fool...