Probably the most ineffective leader known to Japanese politics, Democratic Party President Katsuya Okada has announced that he will not participate in the upcoming DP presidential election. Insiders had been speculating that he might be stepping down; however, the timing of his announcement was quite unexpected. When pestered with the question of whether or not he was planning on running in the next Democratic Party presidential race, he stated he would respectfully wait until after the gubernatorial election results were out to make that announcement. After all, Okada’s party was supporting Shuntaro Torigoe in the Tokyo governor race and why do anything to steal his spotlight?
Well, Torigoe’s spotlight got a lot brighter when a scandal involving him and a 20-year-old girl was leaked to the public through the infamous Shukan Bunshun tabloid just days before the election. Perhaps Okada knew it was a lost cause and could no longer keep his secret in? Whatever it was, he changed his mind and announced the night before the governor election that he will not be participating in his party’s next leadership election. Whether or not he confided with his fellow Opposition Party members is unknown, but we can all agree that there were more appropriate times to make such an announcement.
Although the LDP and Okada don’t have the best relationship, Okada leading the Opposition Party worked in the LDP’s favor: put simply, he was a major hindrance to the DP’s efforts to solidify the opposition vote. Now, former TV star Renho Murata has gained momentum in the political realm, having announced her intention to run in the Democratic Party presidential race to be held August 15th. Perhaps Koike’s victory has started a trend in women rising to power? If this is in fact so, then maybe we should look forward to Renho leading the Opposition Party against the LDP, and more importantly, against PM Abe!
Wear Your Helmet!
Another headline was (quite literally) the fall of Sadakazu Tanigaki. Tanigaki was Secretary General, a popular leader of the LDP who held the party together since 2009. Tanigaki, an avid bicyclist has been in previous cycling accidents, but always managed to come out with only a few scratches. But in his most recent accident, he wasn’t so lucky. Not much is known about the status of his recovery but we know that his recovery process does not seem to be going quickly, certainly not fast enough to fulfill Abe’s request to have him return to resume his duties as LDP Secretary General. Consequently, Abe has officially appointed Toshihiro Nikai as Tanigaki’s replacement. Many LDP members are vexed with Abe’s decision, predicting Nikai may cause conflicts within the party. ‘Party hopping’ is something that is often looked down upon in Japanese politics and many think it is a disloyal and dishonest practice. Governor Koike was harshly criticized for having a history of many political party affiliations. Nikai has similarly been affiliated with many political parties, specifically Shinseito, the Liberal Party, the Conservative Party, the New Conservative Party, and of course, the Liberal Democratic Party in which he is now settled.
Yuriko Koike went rogue and ran for Tokyo governor without the blessing or the support of the almighty LDP. The LDP, furious, supported Hiroya Masuda’s campaign against Koike to no avail. Although PM Abe has swallowed his pride and promised that the Central government and the Tokyo government will cooperate, many LDP politicians are not so forgiving. One of the main roles of Tokyo’s governor is to oversee the preparations of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Koike must work with the newly appointed Olympics minister and fellow former TV newscaster, Tamayo Marukawa. It is said that Koike and Marukawa have ‘bad chemistry’, which only adds to the list of people who seem to dislike the new governor of Tokyo, including former Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori who is now the chief of the Japan Olympic Committee. With Tokyo already behind in preparations for the 2020 Olympics, many are worried that the chemistry among Koike, Marukawa, and Mori may put a heavier burden on the Olympic tasks that lie ahead.
PM Abe has gotten quite comfortable in his seat at the top, but can his reign last forever? His term is expected to end in September of 2018, but some have even introduced the idea of extending his term past that. Currently Abe is one of the longest serving prime ministers in the history of Japan and he won’t give up his spot so easily. Regardless, there are a few contenders who may step up to the plate. Shigeru Ishiba is the most promising contender as of now, and announced he will be leaving Abe’s cabinet to set out on a countrywide tour. Although not explicitly stated, we believe his trip is to gain support to get a head start on the 2018 election to become the LDP President, and thus become Prime Minister. Fumiyo Kishida and Tomomi Inaba are also rumored to attempt to succeed Abe. However, being ministers in the newly reshuffled cabinet, their campaigns will lack in preparation compared to Ishiba.
Special thanks to LDP party member and Nagatacho insider Mr. Dan Harada for providing the insights used in this blog post.