Sunday, July 15, 2007

Youth Springs Eternal from the Japanese Communist Party and Other Tidbits from the List of Candidates

The following is for the convenience of people who have absorbed all the Upper House election material available online since July 12, when the campaign officially started, and is looking for something different. It may not be much, but I'm sure that you won't see it anywhere else.

The parties contesting the 48 proportional representation seats are at stake in the upcoming Upper House election are: LDP (incumbent candidates 12, all candidates 35, average age 54.7); DPJ (8, 35, 54.4); New Komeito (7, 17, 49.0); Japan Communist Party (3, 17, 46.0); Social Democratic Party (1, 9, 56.9); The People's New Party (0, 14, 62.6); Joseito (0, 12, 51.6); 9-Jo Net (0, 9, 59.0); Kyosei Shinto (0, 3, 54.7), New Party Nippon, and Ishin Seito Shinpu (0, 3, 57.2).

The LDP, DPJ, the New Komeito, and the JCP have the largest number of candidates, both in terms of incumbents and overall. As you can see, they also have English-language web pages. Of the remaining parties, the SDP has the only incumbent candidate; none of them has an English-language web page.

The average ages of the candidates for most of the parties are clustered around the mid-fifties. The People's New Party is also the oldest party, clocking in at 62.6. It is also fielding an extraordinary eight ex-Diet members among its 14 candidates, seven from the Lower House. No surprise here; the PNP is the larger of the two parties formed by the 2005 anti- Postal Service privatization exiles. It hopes that the grizzled veterans of elections past will bring in a substantial portion of the votes from their long-time supporters and allow some of them to get back in the game by way of the Upper House. The PNP is also fielding ex-President Fujimori as a candidate. Yes, the People's New Party is the Kokumin Shinto's official English translation.

The second-oldest group of candidates is the 9-Jo Net, which, as its name indicates, a pacifist party dedicated to maintaining Article 9 in its current form. Next comes the once-powerful SDP at barely under the Big 6-Oh, whose sole purpose for existence these days also seems to be keeping the flame for Article 9. Perhaps this is as good a sign as any that Article 9 is due for a facelift.

The JCP and New Komeito are the young outliers. Ideology and iron-fisted party discipline enable the JCP to constantly field a demographically optimal list of candidates. (Eight out of their 17 candidates are women, a ratio surpassed only by the eponymous Joseito, which has only female candidates, of whom five are or have been in the cosmetics distribution business.) New Komeito also boasts great party discipline, since most, if not all, of their candidates are Sokagakkai members who come up through the sect and party ranks.

But the JCP has only one candidate with a degree from the elite schools and one other from the local, semi-elite schools. I am surprised to see that has no candidates from Tokyo University, which has traditionally provided the JCP with its top leadership since the pre-WW II years. It also has only one doctor, and no lawyers, and no schoolteachers. Back in the Cold War era, these occupation groups provided the professionals who could run without fear of losing their livelihood while giving the JCP the social respectability and sense of normalcy that its history and international links it was otherwise denied. Perhaps the communist brand no longer attracts, nor repels.

Speaking of education, six of the 17 New Komeito candidates list the Soka University as the issuer of their final degree. (Another one has a Soka U. undergraduate degree.)

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