Hokuto Yokoyama has run for political office four times, and lost four times, as an opposition candidate in this mountainous region known for its abundant apples, and its equally abundant loyalty to the conservative Liberal Democratic Party, which has governed Japan almost continuously for more than a half-century.It is true that Yuji Tsushima served 11 uninterrupted terms in the Japanese House of Representatives before he suddenly stepped aside on the eve of the upcoming election to let his son run in his place. It is also true that Tsushima had won Aomori District 1 in all four elections held since it was created in the 1994 conversion of the House of Representatives from the multimember single non-transferable vote system to the single-member district system. But this singular outcome obscures the fact that in those four elections, Tsushima only once managed to win a majority of the votes cast. In fact, he barely managed to raise his share of the total votes cast to 40.4% in the 2005 national LDP landslide from his personal all-time low of 39.7% in the 2003 election, while Hokuto Yokoyama put up a good fight in both elections. This hardly looks like an LDP stronghold to me. So what has been going on?
The last two election results causes Yokoyama’s claim that it was “a big turnaround from just a few years ago, when he still had to convince residents that the Democratic Party was not ‘a bunch of socialist revolutionaries’” to ring hollow. Besides, it’s hard to imagine anyone mistaking Yokoyama, an Ozawa acolyte, for a socialist. Couple Yokoyama’s close-but-no-cigar results with the consistently meager pickings for the Social Democrats and the Communists and we come closer to the truth. Aomori District 1 must be comprised of deeply traditional communities, where personal loyalties run deep. And past debts are not easily forgotten. Call it traditional, call it conservative, but do not call it LDP. And here, I go into some speculation. As one of the seven capos of the Tanaka action, Ozawa’s public works reach must have extended well beyond Iwate boundaries, and continue to resonate—and influence politics throughout the Tohoku region. Note that the DPJ does relatively well there compared to similarly conservative Kyushu. (This, incidentally, was what the Nishimatsu scandal was insinuating.)
Speculation, yes. But given the relative weakness of the LDP in Aomori District 1, shouldn’t Fackler have looked beyond the usual left-center-DPJ-kicking-LDP-butt narrative to possibly reveal the saga that may be playing out there? It almost makes you wish Norimitsu Onishi were here. But not quite. Because if he were, that might be the whole story.