Saturday, June 30, 2007

Mr. Fujimori May Complicate Post-Election Maneuvering for Micro-Party.

BBC follows up on the prospective Alberto Fujimori candidacy for this month's Japanese Upper House election. The former Peruvian president, who has dual Japanese-Peruvian citizenship, "is currently under house arrest in Chile, facing extradition to Peru on human rights and corruption charges". Shizuka Kamei, the LDP outcast and Kokumin Shinto leader, had sought him out, and Mr. Fujimori apparently is game.

From a purely electoral perspective, this a smart move for the Kokumin Shinto. Mr. Fujimori is a popular figure in Japan. Not only is he the proverbial hometown boy made good - the political equivalent of Ichiro - he assuages the residual sense of guilt we feel for the hardships that Japanese emigrants underwent in Latin America. He will likely suffer some reputation risk from this incongruous act. (An ex-president of Peru running for a Diet seat in Japan from house arrest in Chile? Peter Sellers would have loved to do the movie.) However, like the case of Kyouko Nakayama, the abductee-and-family minder, or Hiroyuki Yoshiie, the teen-thug-turned-teacher-turned-self-styled education guru, both running for the LDP, the people who are disappointed in his meddling in Japanese politics are not otherwise supporters who will take this hard and turn around and cast their vote for an opponent in protest. Like the two LDP celebrity candidates, he will only add to the party tally for the proportionate representation votes.

No, the problems, if any, will come after the election. Assume that Mr. Fujimori gains a seat, and the Kokumin Shinto is holding the casting votes in the Upper House. The price for cooperation will be steep, and a Cabinet seat is not out of the question. So imagine the embarrassment of having Mr. Kamei or Tamisuke Watanuki in the Cabinet demanding every time there's Cabinet meeting that Mr. Fujimori be released. Not to mention having a Diet member under house arrest in Chile.

It's one thing to refuse to extradite Mr. Fujimori to Peru (the Peruvian indignance was a political stunt, actually, since, lacking an extradition treaty, there was no way the authorities could have detained his against his will and forcibly shipped him out), and totally another to have to keep demanding that Chile return him ASAP so that he can fulfill his political duties.

Can Mr. Abe pull it off? The Kokumin Shinto seems to have made it harder for him to cobble a coalition, and that narrows its options.

The available options, of course, depend on how many seats the LDP manages to scrape together. The DPJ's efforts to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory may yet save the LDP, much of the dire outcry from the LDP is surely designed to push the party faithful to action, and the freefall in public support has bottomed out. But the outlook is still grim for the LDP, and, Mr. Fujimori or no Mr. Fujimori, there is a serious possibility that any talk of Kokumin Shinto joining the ruling coalition will be rendered moot.

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