Monday, July 05, 2010

House of Councillors Elections 2010 - The Tokyo Quintilemma (corrected)

In politics, what you see is not always what you get.

Tokyo is blessed because it sends five Senators (yes, that is what they are called) to the House of Councillors.

Tokyo is cursed because it has to select five Senators for the House of Councillors.

First there is the list itself, with a staggering 24 names. Only Aomori and Kumamoto, each with 5 candidates vying for but a single seat, have more freewheeling level of competition, and then only fractionally. In Tokyo, recent candidate inflation rate is just out of control: in 2007, there were 20 candidates for the 5 seats, in 2004, there were 11 candidates for 4 seats.

And why not? House of Councillors member is a great job. A six-year position with a fabulous salary, extraordinary housing and transportation perquisites, basically three free meals a day, personal and family security, social status and very few responsibilities.

It is a wonder that there are not hundreds of aspirants.

Then there is the plethora of parties, mostly of the right. In 2007, voters had to contend with 6 parties offering candidates and a mass of independents. This year there are 9 parties, if one includes the Nippon Soshinto and the Happiness Realization Party, plus a lot of candidates from what claim to be parties.

Then there is the doubling up. The Democrats have two incumbents, Government Revitalization Minister Renho and the Democratic Party of Japan's top vote getter in 2004 Ogawa Toshio. They are being challenged by a pair of two LDP candidates: incumbent Nakagawa Masaharu and newcomer Tokai Yukiko, holder of a U.S. journalism degree.

-- An aside, but what is wrong with the LDP as regards its strong women candidates? Tokai's heavily photoshopped campaign posters immediately bring to mind the Katayama Satsuki disaster (Katayama, the former Mrs. Masuzoe Yo'ichi for those who are new to this game, is one of the candidates on the Liberal Democratic Party's proportional lists). The actual Ms. Tokai is somewhat less doe-like in appearance. Is it because she is taking on, in the person of Renho, a former model and Clarion Girl? And why do the papers fail to say diddly about her coming directly out of General Electric to run in this race, referring to her instead as "a former newscaster?" --

Then there are the guys with the movie star good looks and the scintillating resumes. First is the attractive and savvy Matsuda Kota, the man who brough Tully's Coffee to Japan. He is running on the corporate-sponsored Your Party (Minna no To) ticket (odd that). He is matched on the left by the Social Democratic Party's 37 year-old Morihara Hideki, a former international NGO worker.

Once past these six candidates, one crosses a over to the wrong side of the tracks, where one's associates cast a shadow upon one's image.

The candidate on Easy Street is Takeya Toshiko of the New Komeito (and yes, that fade in is creepy).
Even though Takeya's party has been for the last decade the LDP's coalition partner in government, selling out nearly every one of its core principles in order to hold onto a ministry, the New Komeito still has enough cadres dedicated voters in Tokyo to get Takeya elected no matter what. She has 790,000 to 800,000 votes in the bag, and in the 2004 and 2007 elections, the highest ranking failed candidates won 597,000 and 652,000 votes, respectively.

The hard-luck case is Koike Akira, who is himself not bats--t crazy but as a member of the Communist Party will be treated as such. One of the rare physicians in the Diet and blessed with a good sense of humor, he will be anathema to all but his party's faithful. He would have a decent shot at winning a seat as an independent, especially if he made a special effort to label himself an ex-Communist-running-as-an-independent. Instead, he should go down ignominious defeat with a 450,000 JCP loyalist votes.

After this, one crosses the Rubicon, from the acceptable to the bats--t crazy.

Back in the old days, when comedian/actors like Aoshima Yukio or prominent writers, architects, doctors or whatnot were on tail end of the ballot, one could toss a vote in their direction, certain one was at least giving the country a reason to smile, or, as it turned out in Aoshima's case, would have capped off a great double career.

What to do? What to say? It is right-wing fringe you like? Come on it -- so many different flavors one available could start up an ice cream store. Possibly sane independent one has never heard of before? The voters have at least nine to choose from.

Then there my personal favorite; the Wringer. Ogawa Shoji (小川昇志) has a name is so similar to the DPJ's Ogawa Toshio (小川敏夫) that one can has to think that Shoji-kun was either

a) hired by a member of the opposition to confuse DPJ voters about which Ogawa they want to vote for, resulting in a lot of votes going to Sho-chan that were meant for Toshi-kun

b) wanted to see if he could steal one of the last remaining seats thanks votes that were meant for Ogawa Toshio

c) filled with a hatred so intense for Ogawa Toshio he registered himself just to mess up Ogawa's otherwise fairly certain reelection.

d) Some mix of the above

So how to winnow out 5 winners from out of this mass?

My guess is that Renho is the top vote getter and Takeya Toshiko wins a seat on the Soka Gakkai vote. Ogawa Toshio survives but in only fourth or fifth place due to his obscurity relative his glamorous fellow party member and the other Ogawa's meddlesome presence. Nakagawa Masaharu was the top vote getter of all in 2004 but he will be fighting with his colleague Tokai Yukiko. He will grab the fifth seat, if an LDP candidate finishes in the running at all, the poor showing due to the collapse of the LDP's Tokyo party organization and the plethora of right wing fringe candidates on the ballot from tiny but still established parties. Of the pretty boys in the running, I am guessing Matsuda wins the last seat on both the media-zaikai tailwinds currently inflating the reputation of Your Party and his Matsuda's actual reputation for bringing in a business into Japan and making it a success.

My apologies to all the other candidates...but you are just not in this race. A Tokyo voter has five Senators, more than the citizens of any other prefecture (Hurrah!) and you are not going to be one of them. (And that does include you, Yamada Hiroshi. You should have never left your day job.)

With thanks to John de Hoog for his help.

Later - This post has been edited for clarity.

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