Thursday, January 30, 2014

Why the Tokyo 2014 Governor's election is so important?

In this briefing on the Tokyo gubernatorial election to be held February 9th for the 13 millions of Tokyo citizens, Hiroshi Hoshi, columnist and senior political writer of the Asahi Shimbun introduced the policies and backgrounds of major candidates during a highest-quality briefing held at Foreign Press Center Japan, January 29. His presentation of candidates' characters and programmes was given during a 90 minutes talk and Q A, informative, with insights and details about the personalities of candidates by one of the well versed specialists and watchers of the Japanese political, administrative and business machine of Tokyo.

I knew for long that the leading candidate Masuzoe was a political creature of scandals tainted ex prime minister and LDP chief Takeshita Noboru when Masuzoe worked as an assistant professor at the University of Tokyo. Masuzoe studied in France and he's high rated in magazines. He was a guest on political talk shows in Japan, particularly the popular "TV Tackle" program hosted by Takeshi Kitano. He appeared also in many scandals, sealing his fate as a true Japanese politician...

Masuzoe ran for Governor of Tokyo in the 1999 election, placed third. In April 2010, unhappy with entrenched conservatism Masuzoe left the LDP and formed a group called Shinto Kaikaku, the New Renaissance Party. The party's platform included a call for decentralisation, deregulation, and reducing by half the number of Diet elected members. He is curiously seen as the LDP backed candidate although decision took time as consensus on his name was not easily accepted by the whole LDP factions. Masuzoe is now said by Kyodo news agency to be leading in voters' choice unless a massive voting machine supports the other major candidate, explained Hoshi, Morihiro Hosokawa. Reason? Because Masuzoe "won’t touch anything in the city business" Hoshi said and because Masuzoe won’t conduct any drastic reforms, playing the usual "status quo" policy. The price he has to pay to be endorsed by Abe's LDP.

The other contender for this Tokyo "referendum" alike Governor election is Morihiro Hosokawa, the first reformer politician to have destroyed LDP in 1993 after 3+ decades of one party rule and who led the country for a short period, following LDP waves of scandals. The LDP and then himself Hosokawa fell in scandals related to loans from a fuzzy transportation company "Sagawa Kyubin" in 1994. Hosokawa genuinely feels he is "taken by urgence since March 2011" Tohoku and Fukushima disasters and he considers that current government direction is mistaken both on nuclear and in diplomacy with China and Korea tension as in current Abenomics economy. Hosokawa "developed a sense of insecurity under Shinzo Abe due to his education as an aristocrat and a pottery ceramist in his estate of Yugawara west of Tokyo." He is deeply rooted in Japanese heritage, being the heir of one of the most famous Daimyo aristocratic families of Japan and came out of this discreet retreat. Hosokawa says he feels responsible since Fukushima accidents or erratic acts on the Senkaku or Yasukuni shrine visited by nationalists including the visit of current prime minister Abe. Visit to Yasukuni that the US Obama administration dislikes as seen as provocative gesture disturbing the course of Asian nations development and peace.

Supporting Hosokawa is former prime minister Junichiro Koizumi the popular maverick, great friend of Georges W. Bush and best fan of the "king" Elvis Presley. Whatever happens in February 9th Tokyo Governor election, Koizumi has enough power and popularity to carry on with his political speed and will continue his anti nuclear plants and energy crusade in the next gubernatorial election to be held in western Yamaguchi prefecture, the fief of Shinzo Abe elected since 1996 in the Yamaguchi's 4th district...

Clearly, an indirect duel between Koizumi and Shinzo Abe is actually taking place in Japan today between two different concepts about how to rule a modern and powerful nation and economy, ranked 4th (or 5th depending on methods if EU is seen as an entity) in GDP with a 60 million active population whose median age is 45.8 years old and where the urban population represents 91.3% of the total population. Tokyo itself has 13.23 million people living here.

Other candidates: The right wing ex JASDF Tamogami is endorsed by dynamic octogenarian ex Governor Ishihara and several other members of the Japan Restoration Party but not by the party itself. An other candidate is endorsed by socialists and communists: Kenji Utsunomiya, an attorney who came second behind Inose in the 2012 gubernatorial election, he was the first person to formally declare his candidacy, and is firm critic of  Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. He asks for the closing all nuclear plants, restricting spending on the Olympics and making Tokyo a safe city where people can live and work. A few others are candidate without any chance to win is Yoshiro Nakamatsu, a "celebrity inventor and perennial candidate popularly known as Dr. NakaMats" who entered the race as an independent. The 2014 election is his seventh campaign for governor of Tokyo. Others too more or less relevant, including one Otaku type who campaigns on-line only!

So the question that electors will have to answer February 9: Which one is "the" candidate able to represent both the establishment followed by bureaucracy and municipal business and the people's candidate but also able to symbolise Tokyo and Japan ways in sound governance, with a favorable prospect such as the holding of the Tokyo Olympics 2020? Here are some of the questions the candidates, all the candidates, will have to answer from now and until Feb 9th. In such Governors election, Tokyo has proved in the past that the most well-known appealing and popular candidate is to be the winner. We saw "talento" becoming Governors and they were not that bad. So, if the battle here is Masuzoe versus Hosokawa. Hosokawa will win if the Tokyoites go to vote massively while Masuzoe will win if he is seen as the candidate of the Abe's administration. Whatever the result is, it is the first time in recent years and especially since 311 that a de facto "referendum on national and international affairs" is held by "Tokyo the Megalopolis which never sleeps."

Hiroshi Hoshi - FPCJ January 29 2014


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