AMPONTAN

Japan from the inside out

Quick hits on the DPJ election

Posted by ampontan on Sunday, May 17, 2009

THOSE WHO FOLLOW Japanese politics know that Hatoyama Yukio defeated Okada Katsuya yesterday in the election to replace Democratic Party of Japan head Ozawa Ichiro, who resigned in the wake of a scandal that erupted when his chief aide was arrested for receiving illegal campaign contributions. The vote in Mr. Hatoyama’s favor to lead the country’s primary opposition party was 124-95.

Floating just beneath the surface, however, were some morsels of news and rumor that even the politicos might have overlooked. Here are three.

  • Detesting the press

The Japanese mass media is a bit more balanced than their fellows in the United States when they choose a political party to savage. The center of gravity in the DPJ tends to be center-left, but that’s not enough to spare them the barbs of the Japanese press.

Upper house DPJ proportional representative Ishii Hajime (Hata group) was once a rising star in the ruling Liberal Democratic Party as a lower house member. That star dimmed after the disclosure of some unrevealed financial interests and a trip to North Korea, however. Mr. Ishii aligned himself with then-LDP members Hata Tsutomu and Ozawa Ichiro and accompanied them on the twisting path of their Long March into the DPJ.

Mr. Ishii took an opportunity after the Hatoyama victory to stick it in the face of some members of the press corps present at the hotel where the election was held:

“You tell Ozawa to quit, and then when he quits you (call Hatoyama) the Ozawa puppet. The DPJ will not do as you say!”

After Mr. Ishii’s outburst, an Okada supporter standing nearby grumbled:

“Elections are tough. They’ll just write that the DPJ wasn’t able to change.”

  • An Okada scandal?

The ruling LDP was concerned that Okada Katsuya would be a more formidable opponent in a general election than Mr. Hatoyama. Former LDP veep Yamasaki Hiraku (AKA Taku) was quoted as saying about the result, “Honestly, I’m relieved.”

Japanese politics is always awash with rumors of sinister machinations, especially where the LDP is concerned–even involving the internal elections of an opposition party. Here’s one story that made the rounds:

The Okada candidacy seemed to be generating some late momentum. Only the DPJ’s Diet members voted in the election, which favored the Hatoyama candidacy, but Okada supporters wanted to include votes from local branches nationwide, where their man was stronger. In fact, a movement started in the party’s Okayama branch to hold a primary election there and in other prefectures, and some in the Okada camp started talking about a possible upset on Friday night.

That same night, however, tongues started wagging about a connection between Nishimatsu Construction, the company involved in the scandal that brought Ozawa Ichiro down, and, as one newspaper discreetly put it, “the company in Mr. Okada’s family.”

The company in Mr. Okada’s family is Jusco, Japan’s largest retail chain, which was founded by his father, Okada Tatsuya. The holding company that owns all the Jusco subsidiaries is Aeon, whose president is Okada Motoya, Katsuya’s brother.

Said a DPJ upper house member off the record:

“The ruling party has gotten hold of a scandal. We can’t fight (this election) with Okada.”

According to this scenario, the party held late night meetings to arrange a 30-40 vote differential for Mr. Hatoyama to avoid wounding his opponent and to steer clear of still more bad publicity.

If there is any truth at all to this rumor, and it wasn’t just political psy-ops, it would mean that the LDP could trot it out again any time Okada Katsuya trotted out again on the national stage. Perhaps that was the reason for the particularly unpleasant expression on Mr. Okada’s face when the election results were announced.

  • Spin

A Kyodo poll just before the election showed that the public preferred Okada Katsuya as DPJ boss by a 23.7% to 16.9% margin.

Speaking after the election, Hatoyama supporter Haraguchi Kazuhiro, a proportional representative in the lower house from Saga and the Internal Affairs and Communications minister in the party’s shadow Cabinet, exulted:

“We’ve taken a step away from being held at the mercy of public opinion polls. It’s proof that the DPJ has grown.”

But isn’t the objective of a political party to win elections by running the candidates most popular with the voters? Apparently Mr. Haraguchi would have us believe the DPJ has transcended that concept.

Or maybe that’s as much spin as you’ll see outside of a batter’s box facing a Matsuzaka Daisuke breaking ball!

4 Responses to “Quick hits on the DPJ election”

  1. […] Party of Japan once again – Tobias Harris on Hatoyama's leadership abilities, Ampontan with 'some morsels of news and rumor' of the election, and Shisaku on the ‘choice‘. Cancel this […]

  2. melmo said

    Since I truly admire Motoya Okada as a unique corporate leader, with innovative vision and ethics, leveraging financial gains and balancing returns for all stakeholders, I am secretly rooting for his younger brother Katsuya Okada in this “目糞vs 鼻糞 battle. BTW, the predecessor of the retail group was founded even before the black ship arrived, and Japan’s largest retailer operates in diverse fields, ranking in the top 10 in the industry worldwide.

    Anyway I think the Japanese political scale weighs more to the left than the American scale, meaning Japan’s left is ultra-left in the U.S., in the range of a cult. Even Japan’s right is to the left of the American center-left on certain issues.

    I guess before the Neo-cons, the matter was different, but now I do not think that the U.S. corporate media is pro-liberal. They are just pro-corporate and pro-economy.

    And like Japan, Iran is depicted unfairly by the western media.

  3. Georgie Pye said

    “Anyway I think the Japanese political scale weighs more to the left than the American scale, meaning Japan’s left is ultra-left in the U.S., in the range of a cult. Even Japan’s right is to the left of the American center-left on certain issues.”

    There is no left in the American Senate or presidential races (excluding Bernie Sanders). By global standards, it is the conservatives who are the cultists in DC. Japan’s political spectrum is turning out to be that of a normal European nation.

  4. melmo said

    “By global standards, it is the conservatives who are the cultists in DC. Japan’s political spectrum is turning out to be that of a normal European nation.”

    If you are talking about a “normal” European country as an EU member “within” the borderless EU-sphere, I agree that they are to the left.

    And if you try to define the political spectrum only by the element of religion, I would not deny that the U.S. has regressed to the point feared by the founding fathers. These days, an invocation to “God” is a must for the U.S. President. But, American political views are still complicated and diverse in many areas even by “global standards,” IMHO. Hey, when did the European inner political spectrum become the “global standard”?

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