Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Post-Mortem: My Koizumi Call on Hosokawa’s Gubernatorial Bid Goes South

Yesterday (Jan. 14), Junichiro Koizumi offered his full support for Morihiro Hosokawa in his bid for the Tokyo governor’s office after a widely anticipated meeting between the two, even giving indications that he would be willing to actively campaign. So where did I go wrong? More specifically, was there anything that I overlooked that might have affected my judgment materially?

I forgot to take into account the fact that these one-of-a-kind events are more likely than not to be carefully stage-managed, and that is particularly true in Japan. Or look at it this way: Would a former prime minister decide to come out of retirement after two decades to run for a high-profile office and allow the future of his campaign to turn on a single meeting whose outcome he could only guess at? Even if he had been willing to take that risk, his handlers still would have worked with their counterparts on the Koizumi side to stage-manage the event. Once the scheduled event became public, the odds that Koizumi would make it a most favorable occasion for Hosokawa increased dramatically. Or so I should have determined.
This Huffington Post report link looks very robust, and quite informative too.

As for eventual outcome, it’s really anyone’s guess. Koizumi is a great campaigner. But will his participation be enough to make this a one-issue race? Besides, does Hosokawa want to come across as a one-issue candidate? He has two successful terms as governor of Kumamoto Prefecture under his belt in addition to his brief tenure as prime minister. Then there’s the matter of the other antinuclear candidate, activist lawyer and former head of the Japan Federation of Bar Associations Kenji Utsunomiya, who has the support of the Communist Party. Will he step aside to allow Hosokawa to dominate the hardcore antinuclear vote and possibly rake in more left-wing voters? (The Social Democrats are already switching their support from Utsunomiya to Hosokawa.)

There are other unknowns, such as how well will Yoichi Masuzoe, the preferred candidate of the LDP, fare as a campaigner? Masuzoe is articulate and highly intelligent, plus he is regarded as an expert on the social welfare system. But he only placed third the last time he ran for Tokyo governor, in 1999, and never made his way out of the less powerful House of Councillors, which essentially negated any ambitions he may have had for the prime minister’s office. Plus, if the Hosokawa campaign decides to get down and dirty, there are a good number of skeletons rattling around in his closet. And so on.

Far more uncertainties than I can handle, but what is shaping up to be Koizumi’s active involvement in the campaign improves Hosokawa’s prospects dramatically.

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