Sunday, February 25, 2007

DPJ Forges Ahead in the Tokyo Gubernatorial Cooties Race

070225 The Democratic Party of Japan has suspended its desperate search for a candidate to challenge two-term Tokyo governor Shintaro Ishihara in the hopes that Shiro Asano, former three-term governor of Miyagi Prefecture and currently college professor (Keio University), social activist and media personality will reconsider after all and decide to run, albeit as an independent. The DPJ is in a bind because it has what is more or less a self-imposed deadline in the Feb. 28 fund-raising party the DPJ Tokyo chapter is planning to hold. It would be the height of embarrassment if the DPJ is unable to announce their preferred candidate on that occasion.

Mr. Asano served 12 years as the popular and well-regarded governor of Miyagi Prefecture and probably could have continued for as long as he liked, but decided not to seek a fourth term. He is now a professor at Keio University and continues as a high-profile leader in the social welfare field. Still a relatively youthful 59 to Mr. Ishihara's 74, he will be a formidable opponent for the incumbent if he does decide to run.

Mr. Asano has been adamant so far that he will not run, even as an independent, let alone aligned with the DPJ. However, his apparent willingness to consider attending a civic rally being held today (Feb. 25) with the intent to encourage Mr. Asano to stand convinced the DPJ that it should await its outcome. He will surely keep a healthy distance from the DPJ if he does in any case. But with Mr. Ishihara now unofficially supported by the LDP, the DPJ is clearly willing to settle for vicarious satisfaction in the biggest prize in the quadrennial mass local elections on Apr. 22.

Besides, everybody who is anybody seems to be running away as if the DPJ had a severe case of the cooties. The latest to refuse were:

Yoko Komiyama: ex-newscaster and media personality, currently JPD member in the Lower House

Banri Kaieda: political and economic talking head, lost his Diet seat in the LDP sweep in the 2005 Lower House general election that Prime Minister Koizumi called after the Upper House voted down his Post Office privatization bill.

The Kaieda refusal is especially poignant if media reports are to be believed. One reason the deal failed to materialize was because the DPJ and Mr. Kaieda could not come to account on an appropriate means of compensation if Mr. Kaieda failed to win. Another reason given was that the selection process had raised doubts in Mr. Kaieda's mind. I assume that means he is pissed off at being the umpteenth prospect to be approached. And this is all coming - if the reports are true of course - from a guy who is in political terms unemployed right now.

In Fukushima Prefecture, the DPJ decided to support incumbent governor Kazumi Nishikawa on Feb. 24, one day before the LDP was scheduled to formalize its own support. For Mr. Nishikawa. This is being widely regarded as a transparent attempt to explain its way around Ichiro Ozawa's ban on supporting candidates who are also supported by the LDP.

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