Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Signs of December

Wrapping up an interesting year

I'm not quite wrapping up the year on a personal note. Rather, we have reached that time of the year where various media outlets offer their summaries, their 'one word' that sums up the year in politics and society.  In Japan, there are two in particular that are anticipated: the kanji (Japanese/Chinese character) of the year, and the word of the year. I will also add, this year, an award-winning photograph of the year, 'The Okinawa Gaze' (沖縄の視線).

Each of these awards speak to the sense of unease and uncertainty surrounding Prime Minister Abe and his government.

Source: Kyoto Shimbun, 12 December 2017
Today's announcement of Kanji of the year appeared, initially, a little bland, kita or north, but those who have been watching will be aware of its significance. North Korea. Abe's main vehicle for pressing constitutional revision, and more recently justifying an increase in the defence budget, has been the 'threat' from North Korea's missile program. The judges also noted some 'coincidental' 'north' references: the floods in the northern part of Kyushu, the potato drought in the northernmost island Hokkaido, and a couple of baseball references involving the northernmost team, but the message was pretty clear. North Korea is on the minds of most people who participated in the voting process (other candidates for 2017 included 政 for politics, 不 a prefix indicating un~, or disagreement as in 不支持 'lack of support', where numbers for Abe have been quite high in opinion polls; 核 for nuclear and 新 for new).

The kanji is drawn live on TV and written by revered calligrapher Mori Seihan, Chief Buddhist priest at Kiyomizu Temple in Kyoto. The character remains on display for a few weeks.

The word of the year award, announced a couple of weeks ago was the word sontaku (忖度). It is a word that tends to defy simple definition but it is one of those words that 'when it happens, you know it' as Japanese people seem to translate it. It suggests a request (kind of inferred, but stronger) will be met, without the request (or demand) being formally made (or spoken). It gained popularity during the year in light of a couple of scandals which continue to linger, and which continue to stalk Prime Minister Abe. Both involve educational institutions which have received favourable and extraordinary treatment from the government, implicating in particular Prime Minister Abe and his wife, Akie. The new opposition parties have vowed to continue to seek accountability on these deals in the new year, when parliament returns.

Taken on 23 June 2017, Sawada Masato
Source: Tokyo Shimbun, online, 25 November 2017
The third award I will highlight here is the Tokyo photojournalists association award for 'Okinawa Gaze' 沖縄の視線 a photo taken by Tokyo Shimbun cameraman Sawada Masato ( 沢田将人). As someone with an interest in photography, it is a compelling picture and sums up much of the animosity held by people for PM Abe's constitutional push, nowhere more so that the people of Okinawa. The Okinawa story is one which deserves its own blog post (soon) but the island chain, a prefecture of Japan at the southern end of the archipelago, is where Japanese domestic politics, the US Forces bases and Japanese security all intersect and overlap. The people of Okinawa, led by the prefectural governor Onaga Takeshi, mostly resist the construction of new bases but even more so, resent the way in which the Government in Tokyo appears to overrule their wishes in the name of 'national security'. For many in this particular picture, the sight of PM Abe laying a wreath at a ceremony commemorating world war two at the same time as advocating a stronger military, was too great a hypocrisy. The photo captures the anger.  Governor Onaga is immediately behind Abe, his gaze unmistakeable.

The puzzles for the new year 2018, for observers such as me, focus on PM Abe, his ambitions and the contradictions inherent in a country that wants to remain at peace, fears the missile threat, doesn't want US bases in Okinawa, but can't be without them either...these awards, this year in particular, struck me as indicative of the mix of belief and ambivalence in Japan this year. I look forward to teasing out the strands next year.


At the kind invitation of the editor Daniel Flitton, I will be writing a few articles for the Interpreter, part of the Lowy Institute stable of foreign policy and security commentary from an Australian perspective. A recent piece on PM Abe is here.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Peace in the peace park

Peace makers, peaceniks, give peace a chance...

A week ago, while heading off to catch a train, a group of peace activists were at the station surveying passers-by about various aspects of Japan's constitution, re-armament, nuclear power and the three non-nuclear principles. 

These are not particularly scientific surveys with respondents placing a sticker on a board for their answer. It is, nonetheless, a good way to engage in conversation and given that this activity was happening just two weeks after the election where Abe was returned, I thought the result would be interesting. As it happened, the group was hosting a festival in a neighbourhood park a week later, today in fact, where they would announce the results. 

That is where I spent much of the day, talking with participants, looking at a number of displays ranging from atrocities committed by Japanese soldiers in China, labour conditions, the trending to the nationalist right of school education as well as the announcement of the results of the survey. 
The responses

The results

The group received responses from 70 people over two days at perhaps the area's two busiest stations, Narimasu and Oyama. The results aren't all that surprising  given that people most likely to respond are those interested in and supportive of, generally, the issues. 

Well done to the committee for making a day of it in the park too. There was dancing, a couple instrumentalists, food and a flea market as well as the results. The event attracted a few hundred over the course of the four or five hours. It was the 29th time this particular festival had been held, and they are already planning number 30, next year. 

While the turnout at this little local festival and results might have been a bit disappointing on one level, I am interested in the way so many people are willing to engage in these activities across Tokyo and across Japan. 

The take-away from October's election was that the LDP (and the Komeito coalition partners) swept in on a constitution-changing platform or that the 53.68% voting participation rate shows Japanese voters are fairly apathetic when it comes to changing governments. These activities don't receive a lot of press attention and it is easy to assume that the Abe government has little resistance. More than half the population (well, the majority of people who respond to surveys through the media or elsewhere) remain opposed to constitutional revision. I'm interested in how these acts of resistance get written into the broader narrative, and demonstrate that the present government shouldn't think it has the broad mandate it thinks it has for dramatic changes to Japan's postwar peace. 

It is an interesting time to be here. 

Friday, November 10, 2017

A case of 'where are they now'?

Reflecting on research endeavours

Today was 3 November 2017. It is a public holiday in Japan, 'Culture Day' but also the anniversary of the promulgation of the 1946 Constitution. (Yes, there is also a public holiday, 3 May, for when it came into effect in 1947.) 

But we had classes as usual and today I planned to take my honours thesis to my seminar group to show them what a completed research project looks like. The students are in the midst of embarking on their 'graduation thesis', a similar sort of research endeavour. I noted on the title page that it had been submitted 'on this day' back in 1986--on the 40th anniversary of the promulgation of the 1946 Constitution...

The project looked at the role of factions in the ruling LDP and in particular focussed on a cross-factional group of relatively newly-elected politicians who were seeking the end of factional rivalries and a focus on policy development--idealists all. During my exchange student studies at Daito Bunka University 1984-5, I happened to be introduced to a couple of the politicians and that's how it started...

A rather earnest student, I wrote a rather earnest thesis. Like most of us though, I guess if I had my time over, it would read very differently. Or I would do something completely different. But at the time it was exciting to have interviewed politicians so I stuck with it. 

Anyway...over the years I've kept a bit of an eye on the members of the group, watching their progress through Japan's political world. Some have reached great heights, some less so. But in the age of the internet and wikipedia, I thought it was too good a chance to pass up to look into their whereabouts now, particularly given the day, 3 November. There was something in that, I'm sure. 

So here is a brief rundown of 'where are they now'...I'll run through in the order they were listed in the thesis--basically from the founding group of four and the order in which they joined up. There may be a few surprises* in store...(*only for diehard followers of the Japanese political world, I don't imagine the rest of you have reached this far)

The Forum for a Fair Society : 自由主義経済推進構想

Hamada Takujiro (浜田卓二郎) b. 1941
Hamada was one of the four foundation members of the group. He was elected four times as a member of the House of Reps, and once as a member of the House of Councillors. Not too surprisingly, he found himself in the centre of the political changes in 1994-94, consistent with his 'new politics'. He quit the LDP and like others at the time, made his way through a number of the new parties that emerged and evolved at that time. He last stood as a candidate in 2004 but failed to get elected and returned to law, post-politics.

Funada Hajime (船田元) b. 1953
Funada is still a member of parliament, a member of the LDP. he entered the Cabinet (Miyazawa) in 1992 heading up the Economic Planning Bureau, the youngest to do so. In 1994, he too joined the LDP exodus to form and join new parties but returned to the fold in 1997. He was just re-elected for the 12th time. He has held some significant party posts along the way but also suffered from rather public marital issues as well.

Shirokawa Katsuhiro (白川勝彦) b. 1945
Shirokawa enjoyed six terms as an MP including a stint in cabinet as local government minister and chaired some committees. he two went through a few different parties and, heralding from the same prefecture as the Tanaka dynasty, Niigata, he made some political alliances with Tanaka Makiko, Kakuei's daughter, and her husband, who also became a politician. He returned to legal practicepost-politics as well as some time as a radio announcer.
Ota Seiichi ( 太田誠一) b. 1945
Ota was elected eight times and also reached Ministerial ranks (notably Agricultural minister). He was one of seven politicians who quit the LDP in 1994 and formed the Jiyuto though rejoined the LDP when the Jiyuto merged with the Shinshinto. (It was happening a lot between 1993-94...) He lost his seat in 2004 following awful comments about rapists, but returned to Parliament in 2005. He lost again in 2009 and after a short stint as advisor to the newly-elected Fukuoka mayor, retired from political life in 2011.

Sakurai Shin (桜井新) b. 1933
I had the most interaction with Sakurai Shin, interviewing him a few times, spending a bit of time in his office and learning of his political philosophy via a book he wrote. Also hailing from Niigata, and in fact the same electorate as Tanaka Kakuei, he had an interesting relationship with the former Prime Minister. For some years he led the local branch of the LDP Youth League before a falling out with Tanaka saw him stand for election without Tanaka's support... 
In the end, served one term in the Upper House, and six terms in the lower house. He managed just two months as a parliamentary secretary (Environment) in the Murayama Cabinet (1994) before a 'regrettable outburst'* forced his resignation. (*Wikipedia; in fact it was a denial of japan's invasion of Asian countries during world war two being a bad thing, rather it liberated countries from European colonialism.) So many revisionists...sad the subject of my study turned out to be one too.
He was opposed to the LDP's privatisation of the post office initially but came around post-election.
He didn't nominate for the 2007 election and thus retired from politics.

Ohshima Tadamori (大島理森 ) b. 1946
Ohshima has just been confirmed as Speaker of the House of Representatives, a post he first took up in 2015. That's about as high as it gets, besides Prime Minister of course. he has also held Cabinet positions and key party positions during his political career.
Somehwere in my archives I have a letter from Ohshima who kindly answered my letter of enquiry as a budding researcher...In Ohshima's case, I guess 'there is more to come'.

Kaneko Genjiro (金子原二郎) b. 1944
Kaneko spent five terms as a member of the lower house, and some time as Nagasaki Mayor before returning to national politics as a member of the Upper House, affiliated with the LDP. he remains in the upper house, having been re-elected in 2016. he brings a range of experience to his post.

Sasayama Tatsuo (笹山登生) b. 1941
Sasayama was elected for a total of five terms, representing Tohoku, the northern part of the main island of Honshu. He held some minor ministerial positions in the Takeshita Cabinet (1988) but lost the 1990 election. In 1993 he joined the new party headed by Ozawa Ichiro and Hata Tsutomu (later PM, briefly) and was re-elected. He joined the Jiyuto in 1997 (in the ongoing evolution of Japanese opposition parties around this time), stood for re-election in 2000 but failed to win hos seat.

Sato Eisaku ( 佐藤栄佐久) b. 1939 (Familiar name, but not the former PM)
Another member turned mayor, Sato had one term as a member of the House of Councillors before resigning in 1988 to stand as Fukushima Governor. He was successfully re-elected four times but had to resign during his fifth term following a scandal involving his brother. According to Wiki, he was arrested...

Tanigaki Sadakazu (谷垣禎一) b. 1945
Tanigaki will be familiar to Jpnpol nerd-types. He continued as a member of parliament until this last election in October. He suffered life-threatening injuries in a bicycle accident last year and despite courageous efforts at rehabilitation, he decided to retire from politics once the october election was called. He held several cabinet and senior party positions in the LDP and was considered a great loss to the parliament when he announced his retirement.

Nogami Toru (野上徹) b. 1937
Nogami served two terms as a member of parliament. A Tokyo University graduate, he was for a time a journalist for the Asahi Shimbun. He lost the 1986 election 8the same year I was writing about him...). He tried several more times in 1990, 1993, and 1996. He failed each time to get elected. His son, however, is presently a member of the Upper House...a second generation 'young turk'!

Noro Akihiko (野呂明彦) b. 1946
Noro had four terms as a member of the lower house, spent a term as mayor in his hometown in Mie Prefecture and later governor of the same prefecture until 2010. Interestingly, in his prefectural political life he was endorsed by the Democrats and the Socialists.   

Ishii Ichiji (石井一二) b. 1936
Ishii, first elected in 1983 was re-elected three times. In 1993, he joined the exodus from the LDP to one of the new parties formed at the time and despite holding executive positions and several attempts, he failed to be re-elected. He also tried his hand at local politics, with plans to stand for Kobe mayor in 1997. His last attempt at election was the 2001 election for the Upper House.

Komura Masahiko (高村正彦) b. 1942
Now for the Jpnpol nerdy-types who have reached this far, Komura will be a familiar face, or name. This is the same Komura who announced his retirement just prior to the 2017 election, the same Komura who became a significant and influential member of the LDP and several governments since his election in 1980. His bio mentions that shortly after his election, he 'quickly became one of the young turks, joining the new policy study group'...that would include the FFS.
Among several significant executive posts he was also Justice Minister, Defence Minister and Foreign Minister. He also held the post of LDP vice-president, which he held for a record 1586 days.
Ogawa Hajime (小川元) b. 1939
A latecomer to the group (at the time of the study), Ogawa was elected in 1986. He was re-elected in 1993, and 1996. Little more is said about Ogawa except that he developed close relations with Chile, taking up a special ambassadorial role in 2002 until 2007.


And what of that honours students 30 years ago? Well, I went back to Tokyo to do some postgraduate fieldwork at Tokyo University (1988-89), worked as a project officer in the Australia-Japan Foundation, went on to eventually complete postgraduate studies at the University of Queensland, taught Japanese Studies and politics in Brisbane universities, temporarily unemployed, worked for a Queensland senator and ended up at the University of the Sunshine Coast for longer than was necessary. In April 2016, I took up a new position at a university here in Tokyo, keeping a close eye on the politics of the day. That's a fair bit of work I guess. Is it what I expected way back in 1986? Pretty much, I've been rather fortunate.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Looking at the results #jpnvotes17 part 2

Looking at the results: the fallout

Koike returned from Paris, and obviously disappointed with the result, indicated that her comments about 'excluding' former Democrats may have hurt her chances. She appeared briefly at the end of a meeting of members of the party, wishing them well. She will turn her energies back to the Governorship. It is a setback but not the end for Koike's ambitions.

The independent ex-Dems have opted to form their own faction within parliament for now rather than merge with existing entities Kibo and RikkenDs; this is probably not a great decision as it continues to split the opposition. Yamao, who had to resign from the old Dems prior to the election over media-generated adultery rumours, and who subsequently stood as an independent in her electorate, has joined the RikkenDs, giving them an additional seat. There may be others who do the same. 

The JCP seem to have been quite magnanimous in their defeat. They acknowledge they lost seats to the RikkenDs, but as part of their broader strategy of cooperation in opposition to defeat the LDP-led government, they were content with the result. They vow to continue the cooperation strategy.

Disgruntled Komei voters have admitted to voting for RikkenDs because they are losing faith in the Komei siding with the LDP; this is a big split (and explains the loss of Komei seats). In particular, the issues important to the Komei core include peace and maintaining the constitution, especially article 9. There appears to be some disappoinment too over the 'fair weather friend' approach by the Komei leadership to back Koike's Tokyo government but remain aligned with the LDP at the national level. 

During the week, Koike's righthand man, Wakasa resigned, having lost the election and saying it is time for younger people and women to come through the ranks. 
Wakasu speaking at Koike's Governor rally 2016

He is just 60 (relatively young for Japanese politics) and it is interesting to see how Koike will receive the news. It is a blow and perhaps a lack of confidence in Kibo's future directions. He has announced he is going cycling...I'm not sure if that is what he is actually doing, or whether it is a euphemism...

I am now preparing a longer paper on this election, an analysis which seeks to examine the characteristics of the party and electoral system which can apparently bring a 'landslide' victory for the incumbents while exit polls and trends  in opinion polls are consistent in the electorate's distrust, dislike and concern over Abe's prime ministership. It is more specifically about Abe than the LDP I think, a different leader might produce different results. 

I am also going against the popular analysis and reject the notion of a 'landslide' win for Abe this time. The figures don't stack up. The LDP-Komei coalition ended up with the same number of seats as prior to the election and taking into account the decrease in electorates (475 to 465) this time and the fact that Komei lost seats (34 to 29) suggests a status quo, rather than a landslide. I would contend too that the relative success of the RikkenDs suggests a desire on the part of the Japanese electors to once again seek a less right-wing government...is it the system at fault. 

Much analysis to come, psephologically-speaking...

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Looking at the results #jpnvotes17 part 1

#jpnvotes17 part 1: Women candidates

So here is a preliminary look at the 47 women who were elected from 209 candidates (out of a total of 1180 candidates).  

Liberal Democratic Party 20 women out of 281 candidates returned
RikkenDs 12 out of 54
Kibo 2 out of 50
Komei 4 out of 29
JCP 3 out of 12
Ishin 1 out of 11
Shamin 0 out of 2
Independents 5 out of 26 (with several independents former Dems)

Ikeuchi Saori, the JCP candidate highlighted in an earlier post, seeking a second term, did not get re-elected despite a strong and prominent campaign. She was elected previously on the party proportional list and was listed third this time. JCP only garnered enough votes to return two candidates from the list. She 'just' missed out. The outcome also reflects the fact that the RikkenDs likely took votes from the Communist Party this time. The proportional list is probably the first place to be considered for reform in finding ways to increase women's presence in parliament. Whereas some analysts are calling for the placing of quotas, parties could begin by placing women (only?) on the proportional lists. Ikeuchi was third behind two men. 

In one of the other contests we focussed on, Niigata 4, Kikuta Makiko running as a former Dem/ independent defeated her LDP rival Kaneko Megumi. Kikuta received 56% of the vote, Kaneko 43%. Kaneko was the incumbent single member district representative. Kaneko was placed on the party list (something not afforded to Kikuta this time as an independent), but failed to get elected. She was sixth on the LDP list, behind FIVE male nominees...four of whom like Kaneko were doubling up on single member electorate candidacies and proportional list positions. If she had been laced one spot higher on the list...

We will look at other candidates in detail in coming posts.


Today too, the Tokyo Shimbun ran an interesting article on young voters. Since the voting age was reduced to 18 from 20 last year, much attention has been paid to those 18 and 19 year olds voting patterns. For those resident in Tokyo in particular, it has been a busy time for them with an upper house and gubernatorial elections but this election was the first lower house election for this new voting group. 

The paper examined the votes of five university students, three female, two male.
It asked them how they planed to vote before the election and how they voted after the election, in both the single member districts and party proportional lists. Australian readers will be familiar with the tendency of Australian voters to choose one party's candidate in the lower house while voting for a different party in the Senate. This was particularly prevalent during the heyday of the Australian Democrats. In the Japanese voting system, we have a similar phenomenon, but with two votes determining the make-up of the lower house. 

Blue=LDP, Beige=RikkenDs, Green=Kibo, Mauve=Komei, Orange=JCP

As the picture indicates, three of the students had no particular intention prior to the election. Only one thought he would vote LDP on the list (but undecided on the single member electorate) and only one student had decided on Kibo for both electorates. Halfway through the campaign, their choices had firmed a little with three remaining undecided on the single member electorate, all having pretty much decided on the party list (from L-R: LDP or RikkenDs; Kibo; RikkenDs; LDP; RikkenDs).
When asked where they voted on polling day, L-R: LDP & RikkenDs; LDP & LDP; Kibo & RikkenDs; Komei & LDP; JCP & RikkenDs. This pattern reflects the voting patterns of the 100 or so students I teach (and we study opinion polls so there is a lot of data). Male students tend to have more conservative voting tendencies (hence LDP and Komei) whereas female students will tend to vote a little more progressively (non-LDP for our purposes here). 

The student who changed her Kibo voting intention on the party list to RikkenDs on polling day said so 'after hearing Koike's (Kibo) rally speeches compared with Edano's (RikkenDs) [Kibo] seemed to lack any policy realisation'. A rather astute observation. 

Credit to Tokyo Shimbun for following these students through the process. (Tokyo Shimbun, 24 october 2017, p. 31)

Monday, October 23, 2017

Election Day 2017: Koike's ambitious run done

Election Day, Japan's Lower House, 22 October 2017

The election is over, the votes are being counted as I write, the LDP has won as expected and Koike is in Paris. Yes, really, at a conference. 

There she was in Ikebukuro last night, at 8.00pm and today she was in Paris. Says much about her energy. 

Unfortunately for her and her party's ambitions, it is not looking good. In fact, as I speculated yesterday, the RikkenDs momentum has carried them over the line and stopped Kibo in its tracks. 

The photo shows the numbers at 10:45 this evening:

The LDP-Komei coalition has 250 seats, the opposition parties 88. The government has recaptured its simple majority, the question is whether or not it will gain the required two-thirds (310 seats) for constitutional change. (Keeping in mind there are ten fewer seats in this parliament as reform continues.)

Across the two types of electorates, both Kibo and Rikken are fairly close in totals with 36 and 39 seats respectively (at 11.00pm). A few of Koike's star candidates have failed to get over the line, including her lieutenant Wakasu, who took over Koike's own electorate in Ikebukuro. This is her 'heartland' and where she launched the run on City Hall; Wakasu looks like coming in third, a real blow. 

As the results are finalised overnight and into to tomorrow, I will look more closely at seat-by-seat results. 

Suffice to say that this is not really a win which endorses Abe's constitutional revision. The momentum behind the RikkenDs is quite significant. The opposition parties, especially the RikkenDs and the JCP, now have an opportunity to consolidate and present as a stronger oppostion next time around. In their favour are several of the non-aligned independents, former Democrats who didn't affiliate with Kibo or RikkenDs and who may find a home in a revitalised RikkenDs. (Not to mention the matter of the Upper House Dems mentioned in an earlier post...)

For Koike? This is a defeat, unanticipated. It would be easy to blame it on the haste with which the party was formed and organised for the snap election. But Edano's RikkenDs was even more hastily formed and has had much more impact. Although she indicated early on she wouldn't stand, no doubt that has had some effect on the outcome; the language of 'exclusion' Koike used seemed to also offend and despite some quirky 'zero' policies, in the end, perhaps voters were unwilling to distinguish Kibo from the LDP. On this occasion, Kibo did not offer the differentiation that perhaps RikkenDs have managed. 

Koike is here for the long run though, I suspect. This election was just the lead-up to the long jump ahead. 

There is much to look at in the morning, in the cool light of a typhoon-bearing-down-on-the-coast kind of way. Literally. 

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Tracking Koike's Ambition 21

Tracking Koike's Ambition, Day 21, 21 October 2017

End of the road. Campaigning for tomorrow's election finishes today, by law. It is customary for all the parties to have one final rally, one final throw of the dice, to convince voters to vote for them (or just get out and vote). Previously, last rallies have been timed such that I've managed to get around to look at all of them. Not today though.

And we are done
 There was time to get to Shinjuku to see the RikkenDs and, should they be running on time, get back to Ikebukuro where Koike's Kibo no To was to rally on one side of the station and the JCP, with Ikeuchi Saori, who has really impressed me with her campaign, was set to speak. 

Unfortunately, PM Abe was set to rally at Akihabara at the same time as the JCP and Kibo... decisions, decisions. 

Add to that, the rain. It hasn't really stopped. Umbrellas get in the way of pics at rallies...

 So I got to three rallies. The RikkenDs have really picked up some momentum since their rally I attended last Saturday at Kichijoji. There were thousands waiting, in the rain, at least an hour before leader Edano was due to appear. In the end, Edano was running a bit late and I had to leave to get up to Ikebukuro in time for the other two. But I did catch Kaieda, another Democrat heavyweight and female candidate Ido. The crowd was buoyant and supportive, in spite of the weather and ranged across demographics. The RikkenDs have tapped a vein here but how that converts to votes? We will have to see tomorrow. 

Gathering crowd
Brollies everywhere
Very different atmosphere at Ikebukuro. Twenty-five minutes before Koike was due to speak, the crowd was rather thin, maybe about 100-150 loyalists waiting (also in the rain). I ducked over the other side of the station where the JCP was gathering. The JCP and the RikkenDs (along with Shamin) are cooperating to an extent in order to consolidate the anti-LDP vote. It did have some positive effects last election but I can't help but speculate that the energy of the RikkenDs has perhaps   drained some support fro the momentum the JCP gained in the last election, to start to position itself as a key opposition party. Compared with Shinjuku, the crowd was far smaller. But committed supporters were committed. I also got to hear Ikeuchi Saori, and she energised the crowd (I also got some of the rainbow merch...for research purposes of course).

View from the back of the RikkenDs
Back to the other side and Koike had arrived in her trademark green raincoat, and to be fair, the crowd had swelled quite considerably, although it was still raining. And there were many more police controlling crowd movements. This part of Tokyo is Koike's base and she made that point in part of her speech. It is where she launched her run for the Governorship last year, and it will remain key to her support when she launches her next run for higher office. Her party's drop in support (via several opinion polls this week) will have been disappointing but Koike remains an inspiration to women, if audience response and vox pops are any indication. Her challenge now will be to keep the party going and building for the next election (which is all she could realistically do this time, given she launched the party the day before the election was called; although having said that, the contrast with the similarly new party over at the RikkenDs is quite remarkable). She should also focus on getting up some success in her role as Governor. She traded on her success as environment minister (not so defence minister) in her gubernatorial campaign, for her next run at PM, a strong track record in Tokyo might shade some of her weak points. 
Communist Party truck prepares

Communist Party members speaking

Protest sign

Shii, leader of the JCP

Koike's last dance
The weather forecast as backdrop, the sun will shine again soon

Ikeuchi's merch and leaflet

Koike's last crowd

Some media at Shinjuku

And in this evening's paper, a story showing just how many kms the leaders have clocked up in 12 days: some 70,000km between them. Abe 11833km, Edano 13280 and Koike just 8392 (kind of surprising). And mostly in the rain this week. Really, you have to admire the way these people, not just the leaders but also the candidates, the volunteers, the staff, the supporters, the curious on-lookers get out and about and engage in their democratic process. It is fascinating and a privilege to watch close up. 

And now, there is just the result to wait for. Back tomorrow with a wrap up. 

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Tracking Koike's Ambition 20

Tracking Koike's Ambition, Day 20, 20 October 2017

At some point, it will be worth lining up all of Koike's 'end of the day' videos she has been posting and gauging the tory of her campaign by the content and her expression. She appears to remain upbeat despite the election probably not going to plan, if the plan was to have Kibo in a commanding position from opposition. (I don't think the plan was for her to be PM this time, but rather to make giant strides towards that position for next time.)

Koike spent most of the day in Hokkaido, Japan's northernmost island. She returned to Tokyo in the evening to attend one more rally for one of her candidates. It is a punishing schedule which, as noted elsewhere, most leaders have been pursuing. 

Koike in the rain; the Emperor has a plan
An interesting choice of battleground for Koike. Kibo has just four candidates standing in Hokkaido which has twelve single member electorates. All four candidates are on the party list along with two others, making a total of six candidates for Hokkaido. The party has attained something of its desired parity here, with a fifty-fifty male-female split. 

In other news, the government announced its decision about the long-deliberated abdication plans of the Emperor, something which has the potential to play into the election campaign but which, by the end of the day, most parties seemed to have avoided. The Emperor is constitutionally, a symbol of the people, all power having been stripped from the position following World War Two. The current emperor is more inclined to a pacifist stance, and resolutely anti-war. Those on the right of the political spectrum, including the nationalist Nippon Kaigi (closely affiliated with the LDP and Koike is a member), would have the emperor restored to his (and only his, they oppose female succession) former prewar, god-like preeminence. 

The Emperor will step down on 31 March 2019 and the new reign of his son, the crown Prince, will commence on 1 April, along with a new era name. This coincides with the beginning of the financial, academic and work year (and has nothing to do with April Fools Day). 

The timing is significant and given that constitutional reform will be a big part of the next parliament, the emperor 'who does not have a political role, nor does he interfere with politics' will nonetheless represent the will of the people in the constitutional debate. 

Tomorrow is the last day of campaigning. Rain is forecast. And that doesn't augur well for the voter turnout...we made some forecasts in class today, a free lunch to the student who gets it right! Rain literally dampens peoples incentive to go and vote, particularly given it is not compulsory. The main parties will hold their final rallies in Tokyo, the LDP in Akihabara at 7.00pm (where PM Abe is due to appear), the RikkenDs at Shinjuku at 5.00pm, Kibo in Ikebukuro at 7.30 and the JCP on the other side of Ikebukuro station at 7.17pm...I have a bit of running around to do (and choices to make). 

Until tomorrow. 

Friday, October 20, 2017

Tracking Koike's ambition 17

Tracking Koike's ambition, Day 17, 17 October 2017

This is not weather for campaigning. It is cold. It is wet.  You have to give credit to everyone for their robust campaigning in these conditions.

The social media battle between Kibo and the RikkenDs continues to atract media interest. Kibo's twitter account is growing, now around 10,000 (Koike's personal account is at almost 500,000) while the RikkenDs are going all out to hit 200,000. The RikkenDs continue to use twitter's promoted tweet space as well.

Social media use is an inevitable element of modern psephology...

We talked yesterday about Renho, former leader, but there are two other former party leaders worth highlighting, partly for their longevity and for their commitment. Both are on the progressive side of politics having signed up in the Doi Takako era of the late 1980s-early 1990s when women's backlash against the old-LDP-boys-club was piqued. It also makes them both contemporaries of Koike and long-term parliamentarians.

Tsujimoto Kiyomi entered parliament in 1996 with the encouragement of Doi and has been subsequently re-elected six times. She is standing in the electorate of Osaka 10 as a candidate for the RikkenDs (having started with the Socialist Party--but party lineage is a project for another day, another post). Her two male opponents are both younger (she is 57, they are 46 and 48) one for the LDP, one for the conservative, Kibo-aligned Ishin, a Osaka-centric party meaning that Tsujimoto is the only progressive choice for voters.

The other woman on the hustings is upper house member of the Social Democratic Party, Fukushima Mizuho. The SDP is really all that now (barely) exists following the shakedown of parties in the 1990s. Nonetheless, Fukushima remains committed to the ideals and is a strong campaigner whose identification with the party has seen her in demand. She was first elected in the 1998 upper house election and since been re-elected four times, centred n Kanagawa, south of Tokyo. She is also a graduate of the Law Faculty of Tokyo Univeristy, long-considered the stepping stone for a prestigious career. She took over leadership of the party when Doi stepped down following electoral defeat in 2003. Big shoes to fill and much expectation. She remained in the role until 2013, a long term in the life of Japanese politics. She presently sits with a loose grouping of independents in the upper house, including the charismatic Yamamoto Taro. Another woman with vast experience who will no doubt have an important role to play in sorting through the non-LDP forces in the upper house in the wake of the eection.

Both Tsujimoto and Fukushima engage extensively on social media platforms. And as contemporaries (effectively) of Koike, both offer differentiation on the 'idea' of the female Japanese politician...a component of this research.

Tracking Koike's ambition 16

Tracking Koike's ambition, Day 16, 16 October 2017

Koike is continuing her (comprehensive) run around the country and has taken to uploading a short commentary on her day on various social media platforms. Koike exudes resilience and gumption in what is turning into a bit of a less than 'hopeful' campaign.

Todays Asahi paper highlights the the 'kanban speakers', poster politicians perhaps, the son of former PM Koizumi and a leading young parliamentarian in his own right for the LDP, Koike as the drawcard for Kibo (as I have witnessed on the hustings) and Renho for the Democrats which gives us a chance to talk about Renho, the former leader, who is supporting colleagues in Kibo, RikkenDs and Independents but who herself remains in Minshinto in the upper house. 

So this is a little bit complicated. In their haste to run on the promise of Kibo, or run as independents or reform as the new RikkenDs, the lower house parliamentary wing appeared to have left their upper house brothers and sisters in their wake. The upper house parliamentary wing hasn't, at the time of writing, dissolved and become part of the Kibo-Rikken-indy split. There are 49 Minshinto Councillors, Renho is one of 12 women in the upper house group.

As a result, Renho, who has always been a good campaigner, has been out and about supporting a number of lower house colleagues regardless of where they affiliated--Kibo, RikkenDs or independent. For her, it was a case of supporting colleagues first and foremost. Today, on the husting in Yokohama with Edano, she was critical of Maehara and his (failed) plan to take Minshinto members across to Kibo (asahi.com 16 October 2017). (There is the matter of who owns/controls the party funds but that shall be for another post-election discussion.)

As with most new party leaders, Renho arrived at the post with much expectation. First elected in 2004 (I have been following her career closely too), she came to politics via a career as a model and tv appearances. Born in Tokyo in 1967 to a Japanese mother and a Taiwanese father she went to university and spent some time studying in Beijing. She has been a stand out in the various iterations of the Democrats over the years and it was only a matter of time before she became leader.

Unfortunately for Renho, the so-called 'birther' movement which emerged in the US during President Obama's term in office came to affect her role with constant questions asked about her citizenship status (similar to the s. 44 issues in Australia recently) only it is neither a constitutional nor legislative issue. For Renho too, like most children born into similar situations, Japanese citizenship was only recognised if the father was Japanese. The laws were changed in 1984 but a cloud remained around her status. That distraction and a poor showing in the Tokyo Metropolitan elections (the same election Koike's new political grouping smashed allcomers, which in turn, spurred the hurried entry into this current election) saw her take responsibility and tender her resignation, under a year into her term.

She was eventually replaced by Maehara in a run off for the leadership and the rest, they say, is history. Although Renho personally sat over towards the LDP on some key political issues, (see for example, the Asahi/Todai joint survey research) I doubt she would have taken Maehara's approach had she remained leader but such are the fun of couter-factuals...

Renho secured her Tokyo electorate in a strong showing during last year's upper house election and is likely to stay in politics for the near future. She would be a loss if she left. The upper house Dems will need her experience to see them through their next stage, post-election, and what is to become of them.

Tracking Koike's Ambition 19

Tracking Koike's ambition, Day 19, 19 October 2017

Koike explains herself
Are the recriminations already beginning behind the scenes? Will Koike be blamed for 'things not going as planned'? Mid-afternoon today, Koike responded to questions about her use of haijo (排除) early on in the party mergers to imply she would exclude members of the old Dems who didn't fit with her plan or sign her largely conservative policy platform. It does have a strong connotation of exclusion or expulsion in Japanese, even when she tried to finesse the verb register to sound more polite about it (a brief linguistic nerd moment, forgive me) it came across as quite harsh...understandably offending some member of the Dems. 

Koike explained that while it might have a harsh connotation that wasn't her intention, rather she used it as a way to convey a sense of close agreement on ideals, platforms and policies for the party. (Asahi Shimbun, online, 19 October 2017, 3.00pm) 

Japan's tomorrow, let us decide
It might end up being the moment people point to in searching for reasons for not achieving the previously lofty ambitions in the short term. In the long term however, as has been mentioned, it has succeeded in sorting out the policy mish-mash that was the old Dems. This election might serve as a platform for better opposition outcomes in the next election (not due now until 2021 but who knows...). 

And while we talk about the use of social media by the parties, it is also worth mentioning  the efforts the bureaucrats are going to to get the voting message out. Certainly, my timeline here in Tokyo is replete with 'promoted tweets' by the Tokyo Election Committee (kind of equivalent to our Electoral Commissions in Australia). quite regularly. And today on the train to work I noticed that the carriage I was on was full of ads to remind people to vote, 'to decide on Japan's tomorrow'. Makes sense, quite a few students travel on that train. 

Tonight, Koike posted another video reflecting on the day but telling the story also about some school children she met who expressed interest in politics and that, for her, to encourage the next generation in that way, was very satisfying...looking for gems in the face of defeat? She's not giving up though, the national tour continues tomorrow.

Three days left. Media outlets predicting a comfortable LDP win. What has the 'Hope' plan meant? 

Tracking Koike's Ambition 18

Tracking Koike's ambition, Day 18, 18 October 2017

It must be the worst weather to be campaigning. Apart from a brief moment today, the weather has been frankly, atrocious. Raining mostly, but also cold. Part of me can't help but take my hat off to the leaders as they make their way around the country in this weather. 

A brief moment in the sun
Today Koike was due to campaign just a few stations down the line from my area; alas, in the other direction and I had classes to attend. During the morning, she targeted Saitama, including the 4th district, where Toyota is standing as an independent, as mentioned earlier this week. Koike's schedule today included some governor duties as well and then in the evening, back out in the rain and a little further afield to Gunma and Tochigi. 

On the party's twitter account, she has taken to posting a short video, about a minute or so, reporting on the day's events and the outlook for tomorrow. The twitter account is slowly gathering a following, it is up to about 12,000 now, a long way behind the RikkenDs but steadily improving. 

The use of social media in this election is certainly worth reviewing. I suspect that usage reflects demographics in much the same way we would expect in Australia. There is an additional Japanese platform, Line, very popular with younger people but I haven't ventured there yet. 

The media being the media, is moving into that self-reflection mode already, bemoaning the lack of policy debate and a focus on the machinations of the opposition parties, particularly the tussle between Koike and Edano, Kibo and the RikkenDs. Abe is making quite something of all this, making claims about his government's  economic achievements without a lot of scrutiny. It is also interesting to watch LDP candidates emphasise the 'North Korean problem' as, effectively, a way to disguise a much-needed constitutional debate. By citing the North Korean problem, if he wins, Abe can claim he had a mandate on security and move on Constitutional revision. 

During this week, I have been at liberty to raise the election with students I teach, it is the political science department after all, and asking them their views. For many of the students it will be their third opportunity to vote since the voting age was reduced to 18 (it was 20 previously). It seems that for the small sample of 20 year olds I teach, with a few exceptions, the significance and likelihood of constitutional revision is not causing much concern among this cohort. 

It will be interesting to see their reactions to the result next week. 

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Tracking Koike's Ambition 13

Tracking Koike's ambition, Day 13, 13 October 2017

Candiates are facing up to the only full weekend of campaigning tomorrow and Sunday. Next Saturday will be the last day of campaigning before the election on Sunday 22 October. What can Koike do by then to boost the support and more significantly, turn that crowd support into actual votes. Voter mobilisation, with non-compulsory voting, requires a much bigger effort for parties other than the LDP and Komeito. (LDP's base is pretty rusted on and Komeito draws largely from a loyalist affiliation with the Soka Gakkai--a quasi-Buddhist 'new' religion.) 

Koike's video, challenging the old (LDP) politics
Today's blog highlight is a candidate who has come into view through some savvy social media use, JCP candidate and incumbent (on the party list) Ikeuchi Saori, 35. She is one of three candidates in Tokyo 12 where her opponents are men, one independent and one, the incumbent Ota, of the Komeito. 

She is a strong campaigner against 'hate speech' as it is called here in Japan, fights for 'comfort women' and is a strong advocate for LGBQTI rights. Her campaign is characterised by rainbow colours.

Part of the aim of my research project is to in fact, demonstrate the diversity of women in politics in Japan. Ikeuchi is a young committed activist having joined the JCP at age 21. She is a graduate of Chuo University. She won her seat in 2014 on her third attempt having stood in both the 2009 and 2012 elections. Her political life has been nurtured as a member of the JCP youth divisions. She is a savvy user of social media including twitter, facebook and youtube. On her blog, she records her parliamentary actions including speeches and committee work and examples of her engaging with the community. 

In an era when criticism of young people points to their apathy and inaction, Ikeuchi is a stand out in the crowd. The point to watch this time is whether or not the new Rikken Ds will draw votes from the Communists on the party list and make it harder for candidates like Ikeuchi to hold her position. The Rikken Ds and JCP are going to have to consider some serious consolidation talks after this election if there is to be a strong opposition and two party system in Japan, post LDP-Abe.

Off on the hustings tomorrow.