Thursday, August 27, 2009

You Know the LDP Is Doomed When…

Martin Fackler, as his wearable vending machine report shows, is as good as his sources—no more, no less. So, when he’s been mostly spot on in two consecutive articles here and here, on the imminent demise of the LDP, with appropriate anecdotes and interviews, then you can be sure that there won’t be any last minute reprieve for the Aso administration and its loyal supporters. Then, on what the proverbial two-handed blogger used to call the other hand…
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.

6 comments:

Martin J Frid said...

Rokkasho Reprocessing Plant not even mentioned by NYT. Sigh. Aomori deserves better.

Durf said...

They'll always have that Ishikawa Sayuri song.

Janne Morén said...

I really, really liked Aomori city when I visited last. It deserves better than to just remain a ferry-less backwater.

Jun Okumura said...

Martin: Only you could bring Rokkasho-mura into that narrative. (I happen to support the nuclear option. I don’t see how my children and grandchildren (God willing) can stand the lifestyle change necessary without it. However, Rokkasho-mura…)

Durf: I think Shinichi Mori dealt a fatal blow when he took Aomori off the map, going straight from Hokkaido to Iwate—Ozawa country? Something fishy here—travel song Minatomachi Blues. Ishikawa Sayuri? Too little, too late. Gotōchi song? Very provincial, I’m afraid.

Janne: You long for Ingrid Bergman-gloomy, perhaps? Seriously, where else does the center have such an all-powerful hold on the nation? I sometimes wonder how we would have turned out if we had left the Emperor in Kyoto.

Janne Morén said...

Jun, actually, that pensive mood and that slower pace probably had a fair bit to do with why I liked the place so much. I bet the city and the coast feels dramatic in late autumn and winter.

Oh, and Bergman was a comedian. It's just that the laughter comes out as tears now and again.

Jun Okumura said...

“It's just that the laughter comes out as tears now and again.”

…the way they should.