Monday, August 31, 2009

A hundred hand slap in the face of one-party rule

You've probably heard by now that the long-reigning LDP has been completely pwned, to use a political science term. I thought I should give a closer insight into one small part of the enormous DPJ wave: Kanazawa City, a.k.a. Ishikawa Prefecture's 1st district.

Japanese politics is sort of like The Bachelor, in that media outlets give a rose to each winner. The runner-up, rather than walk away empty-handed, receives an orange rose(?), so I guess they're a little more generous here. In this result, the top guy is the DPJ challenger to the 2nd guy, the LDP incumbent. Kind of a close race; in fact, Ishikawa was one of the last holdout prefectures where they couldn't call any of its three races for several hours because the results were so close.

The DPJ candidate prevailed, ousting the incumbent LDP member whose prior occupation was listed as "pro wrestler." Not sumo, from what I gather, which is kind of disappointing. The LDP's political philosophy (such as it is) is pretty terrible in its emphasis on a kind of socially conservative, semi-corrupt stagnation, but how cool would it be to be represented in government by a sumo wrestler?

And not to be overlooked in third place was the Japan Communist Party candidate, who eked out a respectable 4 percent. As you might imagine, Kanazawa's kind of a hard place to peg politically.

Speaking of sumo, Andrea and I might have the opportunity to attend a sumo tournament up north in Hakui, which is also Japan's UFO capital. We'll keep you updated, since I'm sure you'll want to know if we see any large men in loincloths getting beamed up into a flying saucer.


  1. How will this change the political landscape? Can these politicians actually effect change? Change is relative of course, but would the casual observor notice the difference?

    Nice to have an on-site commentator.

  2. Hard to say. They've promised quite a lot to the public in the form of more generous services and welfare, but they'll be restrained by their ability to pay for any of it. They've also pledged to restructure things to enable the legislature, rather than the government's endless layers of bureaucracy, to have the bulk of actual policy-making power. The bureaucrats won't be too happy about that; they will resist any change whenever possible, and could very well be successful in stifling any good-government reforms the DPJ try to enact.

    It doesn't help that there has never really been a non-LDP government before. The DPJ seems to have their stuff together so far, but they've never really been tested in terms of governing ability. The upcoming prime minister also has a reputation as kind of a pie-in-the-sky dreamer without a lot of substance behind the rhetoric, so with that in mind, it will remain to be seen how much will actually change over the next few years.