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The Democratic Party of Japan’s losing streak

The results of the Nagoya mayoral and Aichi gubernatorial elections Feb. 6 were miserable for the Democratic Party of Japan, highlighting the DPJ leadership’s inability to think strategically to win elections. Prime Minister Naoto Kan and DPJ Secretary General Katsuya Okada should figure out why, starting with its defeat in the Upper House election in July, that the DPJ has suffered a series of election losses in such places as Hokkaido’s No. 5 Lower House constituency, Matsudo (Chiba Prefecture), Ibaraki, Nishi Tokyo, and finally Nagoya and Aichi. For the Nagoya mayoral election, the DPJ picked Yoshihiro Ishida, a Lower House member, as a candidate. While Mayor Takashi Kawamura collected 662,251 votes on the strength of a populist platform to make a 10 percent residential tax cut permanent, Ishida garnered only 216,764 votes.

The DPJ suffered a miserable defeat despite the fact that it sacrificed one of its precious Lower House seats by making Ishida run in the Nagoya election. The DPJ is now five seats short of a two-thirds majority in the Lower House that it needs to override a vote in the Upper House. But 15 rebellious DPJ members Thursday expressed their desire to leave the DPJ’s Lower House parlimentary group.

The result in the Aichi gubernatorial election was equally devastating to the DPJ. Kawamura’s ally, Hideaki Omura, a former Liberal Democratic Party member of the Lower House, won. But Shinichiro Misono, supported by the DPJ, came out third ― even behind Kazuhiko Shigetoku supported by the LDP’s Aichi chapter. In the 2009 Lower House election, the DPJ took all the 15 constituencies in Aichi Prefecture.

Tactically the DPJ must field strong candidates with appealing power, concentrate campaign funds in elections where the DPJ’s prospects are good and strenuously approach organizations likely to support DPJ candidates. More importantly the DJP must correctly detect problems voters face and work out concepts and policies to address them. Otherwise it will suffer defeats again in local elections in April, which will include 13 gubernatorial elections and 44 prefectural assembly elections.

(The Japan Times, Feb. 18)
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