Saturday, June 28, 2014

The Opposition Have Hook for Tokyo Assembly Election (2)

What happened after the event is well-chronicled in the Japanese media (Yomiuri providing the most extensive online coverage, followed by Sankei. No one came forth to admit to the heckling. On the 19th, the day after, the Tokyo assemblywomen, all 25 of them, lodged a nonpartisan joint protest with the assembly chairman (Toshaki Yoshino, by custom on leave from the LDP while chair) to no avail. The next day, on the 20th, the third day after the incident as required by law, Shiomura filed a formal grievance with the assembly chairman seeking the identification of the hecklers and their punishment. The chairman rejected the complaint, giving as the reason for his decision the fact that the assemblymen against whom the complaint was being lodged had not been identified. Meanwhile, the media was having a field day, among other things taking the question to the governor (who had been caught snickering along with a number of assemblymen)—and the LDP’s national leaders, who by then must have realized that they had a serious problem on their hands, not only because of the national media’s attention but more specifically because enhancing the socio-economic role of women had become Prime Minister Abe’s signature plank in the Abenomics’ third arrow.

By Monday, on the 23rd, the fix—patch, really—was in. The secretary-general (Shigeru Uchida) of the Tokyo metropolitan LDP announced that Akihiro Suzuki, the assemblymen most widely accused on the internet, came forth to admit that he had been the one who had told Shiomura “Get married ASAP!” but denied that he had made the other comment. The same day, the assemblyman visited Shiomura, apologized to her in a media event, and resigned from the LDP (but not the assembly).

Two days later, on the 25th, the last day of the assembly session, the plenary:
a) adopted a resolution put forth mainly by the LDP and Komeito expressing determination to “work to regain trust and prevent recurrence”;
b) rejected a motion from the Communist Party seeking the culprit’s resignation from the  assembly;
c) rejected a motion from the Your Party (Shiomura’s affiliation) and DPJ (strange bedfellows at the national level, but not that surprising locally) beseeching the other heckler to come forth; and
d) rejected a final motion from the Communist Party seeking an apology from the culprit.

And the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly went into recess.

There’s an interesting damage control story here, which I will take a look at. For the whole sequence would be trivial—just another one of those weird-Japan stories that has graced the pages of WaPo and NYT over the years—if it were not for the potential ramifications for national politics, which I think that there is a good chance of becoming evident next year. There’s also a sidebar around the deep background behind the heckling, which I might take a stab at.

…to be continued.

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