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 ( 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.

Tracking Koike's ambition 12

Tracking Koike's ambition, Day 12, 12 October 2017

You have to hand it to the various party leaders, they are all keeping up fairly punishing schedules, appearing beside their respective party candidates all over the country. Most of them have their own electorate battles to run as well; Abe and Koike have the country and Tokyo to run, respectively. 

It is apparent that people are drawn to seeing Koike appear. It adds extra pressure and expectation on her that doesn't exist in quite the same way for other party leaders (although Edano continues to draw numbers). Koike's party, Kibo, lays out the next day's schedule prominently on twitter and follows through with photos, video and wrap up comments by Koike at the end of the day. 

I guess they are lucky that the campaigns are relatively short. 

This evening's media highlighted an interesting two-candidate race in Nigata 4, between two women, Kaneko Megumi for the LDP and Kikuta Makiko, formerly of the Old Dems and standing as a non-aligned independent but with endorsement from JCP and Shamin. Both have parliamentary experience with Kaneko winning the electorate from Kikuta a couple of elections ago. As a member of the old Dems, Kikuta has spent the last two terms in parliament on the back of her party's proportional list; this time as an independent, she doesn't have that safety net. The media has pitched the battle between the two as having much 'bad blood' and Kaneko has the added ignominy of having been in headlines earlier with her husband's extra-marital affair becoming public (he was also a parliamentarian). Politicians are paying for affairs these days in ways they haven't previously. 

For Kikuta, everything is on the line; for Kaneko, she has the party list to fall back on. This one is a real challenge no doubt for voters...another electorate to watch.

And in other news, media outlets are already predicting numbers and 'winners' based on electorate surveys. They are projecting a 300+ win for an LDP-led coalition, prompting some discussion via twitter (courtesy of AP reporter Yuri Kageyama) as to why there doesn't seem to be a liberal alternative in Japan. (Another part of this project.)

We'll see, there are still ten days to go.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Tracking Koike's ambition 11

Tracking Koike's ambition, Day 11, 11 October 2017

At the close of nimonations yesterday, of the 1180 candidates, 209 are women, across all of the parties, both in the single member districts and on the party proportional lists.
I am currently compiling a database of the women candidates. Koike reportedly had an ambition to have a 50/50 gender split but instead just 47 of the 235 candidates are women.

Other parties have:
LDP 25/332
Komeito 5/53
JCP 58/243
Ishin 4/52
Shamin 4/21
Kokoro 1/2
Inds 31/91
Non-aligned 15/73

Note that the Independents and non-aligned include quite a few from the former democrats party who either didn't make the cut or didn't want to go to Kibo or the new Dems.

Candidates in Itabashi 11
In this post, I am particularly interested in the fate of two members who, via stories in the 'scandal sheets' were forced to resign from their parties but have chosen to stand again in this election.

As a part of this research, I am looking beyond mere numbers in explaining Japanese women's participation in politics but also looking at the environment and other factors that make up the experience of women in the national political scene.

The first person is Yamao Shiori, 43 and previously elected twice for the Democrats party. Nominated as the new Secretary-General of the Dems early in September, in the same week news broke of rumours about an extra-marital affair; while neither confirming nor denying (but mostly denying), Yamao resigned to dampen down speculation and damage to the party. She is considered to have (had) much potential in the party and beyond. She is standing as a non-aligned independent in her electorate of Aichi 7. She has just one opponent in an LDP nominee, a male. It will be interesting to see how the voters respond. And indeed, whether or not she finds herself back in the Democrats fold, though which group? Her policy stances see her in the Rikken Ds camp mostly.  

The other 'shining star' politician to have crashed in controversy is LDP representative Toyota Mayuko, also 43, who was forced to resign following release of a recording of her abusing (and apparently attacking) her (male) secretary while on the way to an appointment. The tape has been played and replayed on tv and radio. Toyota went to hospital to seek treatment and help for psychological issues. She subsequently resigned from the LDP. However, following a show of remorse to her supporters in Saitama 4, she is standing again, also as a non-aligned independent, perhaps with a hope of finding her way back to the LDP. It would appear there is less empathy for Toyota than Yamao. Toyota will also have a tougher battle in a solid LDP seat, up against four other (male) candidates including the LDP and Hope so there is some choice to park your conservative vote.

Toyota is an interesting case, the 'perfect' cv if you will, of Tokyo University, top level ministry and Harvard University. Just how this scandal will affect her is important to watch. In my view, she seems to be one of the women Abe sought to 'hothouse' to show the LDP in a less-chauvinistic, old-boys-network (former Defence minister Inada is another) light. The expectation on these women is somehwat greater than their male counterparts.

She is top of my list of interviewees for just this reason...

Koike's popularity remains up but her party is bleeding badly on confirmation of her not standing for election this time.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Tracking Koike's Ambition 15

Tracking Koike's ambition, Day 15, 15 October 2017

Koike was back on the hustings in Tokyo today, starting early to cover as many districts as
possible. I looked at her schedule and opted to head to Meguro station, I was interested to see what sort of crowd she might draw outside here base (Ikebukuro, option 1) and without a lot of passing traffic (Shinjuku, option 2). 

Shishido Chie at Narimasu
Along the way, ay my local station, the local Kibo no To candidate, Shishido Chie, was undertaking a bit of a meet and greet. Naturally I stopped to chat, take a pic (not a very good one) and told her of my work and research. There will be a follow-up call. I remain upbeat about Japan's female politicians and candidates, despite the hurdles, a number of young women are stepping up. It is exciting. 

And so it was off to Meguro, for a 2.30pm stump speech. It is raining and unseasonably cold at the moment. Koike is traversing the country in support of her candidates. I was a bit tired just running around after pollies in Tokyo...the stamina these leaders have (Edano, the JCP's Koike, among others) is quite something. 

Koike was running late, 2.30pm became 3.00pm; she has a number of minders and arrives in a separate car from the candidates and their trucks. Up the ladder, on top of the truck, grasp the mike and speak to a fairly friendly crowd for 20 minutes. 


When you learn the main attraction is running 30 mins late

Perhaps it was the weather, perhaps it was the station, perhaps it was the wait, but crowd numbers were in the low hundreds; many wearing the signature green, some with green balloons. Quite a few police officers. More than just passing traffic, most did stop to listed. Koike enjoyed warm applause from supporters and no heckling today, compared with yesterday. 



Rain, or shine

Urging her supporters to hope
Koike talks in terms of hope and change, she is taking the momentum (and speeches) form her successful Governor bid to the national stage but there is also the sense that there just hasn't been time to get the party organised, to get it over the line. The candidate she was supporting in Meguro, Fukuda Mineyuki, was previously an LDP representative, he quit and joined Koike's party. In contrast to Tokyo 8 (yesterday's blog) this electorate, Tokyo 5, has just three candidates, all men, all in their 50s and representing Kibo, the Constitutional Dems and the LDP. It is a little bit like the electorate time forgot.

After twenty minutes, Koike was down the ladder and bundled into the van to go to the next stop. There was no meet and greet with the supporters (disappointing one or two standing near me), obviously time has been a factor. 

And away

Her supporters are nothing if not enthusiastic. Older women mostly in the crowd today, similar to last year's campaign. Will it get her and her candidates over the line? We will know this time next week. 

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Tracking Koike's Ambition 14

Tracking Koike's ambition, Day 14, 14 October 2017

On the hustings proper

Today on my way to the western Tokyo campus of my university, where I had a few commitments, I was fortunate that the station we pass through to get there happens to be a key campaign spot for the various parties. 

Koike on the road (well, the train)
During the elections for Tokyo Governor last year, this was a popular spot for the opposition parties to gather and speak to the masses (of shoppers passing by, or voters taking up position to actually listen). 

Today, with Koike down in her home town around Kobe, I thought it opportune to observe the Constitutional Democrats here at Kichijoji. 

The Constitutional Democrats are largely made up of the group of previous Democrats who either didn't make the cut for Koike's Kibo no To, or chose not to join because of policy differences. 

Leader Edano, (left) former PM Kan (right)
There was a particular enthusiasm and quite a decent crowd considering the showery weather. No doubt most were waiting for the leader, Edano (who was compared--affectionately--with a wombat last week) who has, what we in Australia would refer to as 'underdog status'. People feel a bit of sympathy for him being left with the non-Kibo rump as it were but it has at least given the new Dems a more defined platform. 

Edano turned up, and also on the platform (and on the proportional party ticket), former Prime Minister Kan. The gathering also gave me an opportunity to meet another female candidate, Yoshida Harumi, a Uni of Birmingham graduate, former political adviser, daughter of a fruiterer (emphasised in her profile) and cancer survivor (also highlighted in her profile). 

Yoshida, greeting supporters
She is standing in one of the more competitive seats, Tokyo 8, which includes six candidates, a 50/50 gender divide. The other two women include experienced former Dem from the upper house, Madoka Yoriko, and Osanai Fumiko for the JCP. The Kibo no To candidate, Kiuchi Takatane is a former Dem as well, a three-pointed contest then before we also take into account the the LDP candidate (and incumbent) is Ishihara Nobuteru, LDP heavyweight and one of the targets of Koike's opprobrium...

So although Koike wasn't here physically today, she has her fingerprints all over this particular electorate. I think it will be one to watch very closely next Sunday night to gauge just how Koike's gamble has played out. 

Koike will be back in Tokyo tomorrow. Edano is heading to the regions. 

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Tracking Koike's Ambition 10

Tracking Koike's ambition, Day 10, 10 October 2017

The deadline has passed, 1180 people have put up their hands to compete across the country for 465 seats in the lower house of the Japanese parliament. Koike Yuriko is not one of them. It has been fairly clear for the last few days that she wouldn't stand, the bigger surprise today would have been if she had. 

So it is on to the campaign trail. Koike hit the hustings early around Tokyo, starting at Ikebukuro, her 'home ground' in Tokyo, the electorate she previously represented in parliament (she is originally from Kobe). Tomorrow she is off to prefectures in Tohoku, around Fukushima where I expect her Zero Nuclear Power promise will have some meaning (just how this national campaigning will play out with her Tokyo local government constituency is yet to be seen). 

It will be a tough campaign, but interesting, to watch Koike seeking to convince voters to vote for her party, and put it in a position to have influence in the next parliament even though she is not up for election. It will be a test of whether people are interested in Kibo no To policies or follow the party because of Koike. In other words, is it personality-based politics or policy-drived politics?

Over the next couple of weeks on this blog, besides Koike, I will be highlighting other women candidates as well, across the parties and into their electorates as I work through the 1180 nominees.

Twenty-eight years ago, the then leader of the (then) Japan Socialist Party, the late Doi Takako inspired a number of women to get into politics, some of whom are still on the scene. I am wondering whether or not Koike is going to have a similar effect. 

Meanwhile, time to cast an eye over the nominees and hit the hustings...we're in for an interesting twelve days.

From the Asahi Shimbun, online; 1180 candidates across eight parties and a selection of independents



LDP: 332; Kibo 235; Komei 53; JCP 243; Constitutional Dems 78; Ishin 52; Shamin 21; Kokoro 2; Ind (1) 91; Ind (2) 73

There are 289 single member electorates, with 936 candidates nominated
There are 176 seats in the proportional lists where 855 are nominated but note that a candidate can be nominated for a single member electorate and a 'safety net' option on the party proportional list...hence the 1180 is calculated by adding the 936 single member electorates to those only nominated on the proportional list (855-611=244+936=1180)

The simple majority in this parliament will be 233 seats, and 310 seats will be required for a two-thirds majority (required for constitutional reform, for example). In the last few years, seats in Japan's parliament are being reduced as part of ongoing reforms. At the last election there were 475 seats, from a peak of 512 a few years ago.