Thursday, May 21, 2009

Less Than Meets the Eye to LDP (Almost) Proposal to Deny Official Candidate Status to Heirloom TurkeysCandidates

Going one better on the DPJ, the LDP is moving to deny official candidate status to sons and daughters of retiring Diet members this Lower House general election. This measure, if enacted—it’s not yet a done deal—will affect two candidates, Hideo Usui and Shinjiro Koizumi, son of Junichiro “I will destroy the LDP” Kiozumi, the “reformist” Prime Minister. Now, I know nothing about the Usuis, but I am sure that this will enhance Mini-K’s chances of getting elected on the Kanagawa 11th District ballot.

Mini-K is a twenty-something about whom little is known except his parentage, his good looks, and a brief stay at CSIS, a Washington think tank. He is facing a challenge from a DPJ candidate that is about as far from him as is humanly possible. His “challenger” rose from modest upbringings—he is the son of a truck driver—to become a successful lawyer (note that becoming a lawyer in Japan requires a considerable amount of intelligence and an inhuman degree of time and effort) and has now decided to turn his gifts to making the world a better place for his fellow man. (And if I may say so, the photo on his official web site looks very different from other photos of him taken under less staged circumstances. To put it another way, the official photo looks about as natural as…well, if you’re interested in this subject, I suggest you read this.) Add to this the anti-LDP winds blowing through the nation, and it was no sure thing that Mini-K would be the first past the stile on his first try. Thus, the underdog sales pitch that the denial of official recognition will give him should be a welcome blast of tailwind.

To be sure, there are a couple of downsides to the loss of the LDP seal of approval. First, he won’t have access to LDP campaign funds. But he’ll still be much better off with his dad’s leftover money (yes, the Koizumis can pass it on, tax-free I believe, though I’ll have to check if you insist) and political machine.

…which brings me to my final point. Political allegiance at the local level is more personal than institutional, especially where it involves long-serving Diet Members. It is for nothing that the LDP is sometimes called the 自分党 (Me Party), not the 自民党 (LDP). If anything, the denial of official status will only make the Koizumi political machine work harder for the favorite son. And when he is elected, all will be forgiven as far as the LDP is concerned.

Mini-K does run another, more significant risk. If he loses to the DPJ candidate, he cannot sneak back in by way of a parallel, regional proportional candidacy. But let’s face it; if this guy has long-term political ambitions, he is much better off losing this election to fight another day (when an official LDP candidacy will be all but assured) than sneaking in through the back door. At least that’s how I see it.


Get A Job, Son! said...

Is it me, or is there something of a Edo period feel to Japanese politics and society, just slightly more democratised...?
- politicians and sons following on from each other (add to that TV tarento who seem to be a tarento purely because they are son/daughter of some other famous person.
- Kasumigaseki civil servants who seem to have the power over decisions(and live a privileged life... i.e. pre-arranged late-hour taxi rides home as was a recent scandal).

Thai said, I am sure most other countries are the same...

"Mr 44th President of the USA, please meet Ms. Hilton"

Jun Okumura said...

GAJS: There’s certainly a disproportionately large number of the children of politicians, some of them noticeably lacking in professional accomplishment, going into the family business. But where the entertainment industry is concerned, the United States appears to be no less full of heirloom turkeys as Japan is. Familiarity breeds contentment, it seems.

Have a little sympathy for the bureaucrats though. The civil servants caught colluding were almost to a man non-fast-track officials at the Ministry of Finance, grunts and NCOs who toil extremely long hours for relatively modest pay. Because of their late hours, they have no choice but to regularly go home by taxi. As corporate demand dwindled after the economic bubble burst, this steady demand from MOF became increasingly valuable. One of the consequences of this increased competition was that one specific group of taxi drivers began offering treats to these MOF officials so that they would favor it other groups and taxi companies. This came to draw the attention of those competitors, which led to the scheme’s downfall. I’m sure the DPJ figured all this out, but that’s not how they played it, and the media went along with the story. That’s the honest truth.