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Cablegate: An Unconventional Ldp Campaign to Win Osaka Gubernatorial

VZCZCXRO1086
OO RUEHFK RUEHKSO RUEHNAG RUEHNH
DE RUEHOK #0013 0251021
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 251021Z JAN 08
FM AMCONSUL OSAKA KOBE
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 0984
INFO RUEHKO/AMEMBASSY TOKYO IMMEDIATE 8122
RUEHKSO/AMCONSUL SAPPORO PRIORITY 0212
RUEHNAG/AMCONSUL NAGOYA PRIORITY 2325
RUEHFK/AMCONSUL FUKUOKA PRIORITY 0201
RUEHNH/AMCONSUL NAHA PRIORITY 0224

UNCLAS OSAKA KOBE 000013

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV JA
SUBJECT: AN UNCONVENTIONAL LDP CAMPAIGN TO WIN OSAKA GUBERNATORIAL
ELECTION


Introduction
------------
1. (SBU) In the Osaka gubernatorial election to be held on Sunday,
January 27, political observers and the media are unanimous in
predicting a win for the LDP candidate, Toru Hashimoto (38), a
lawyer and TV personality. The LDP, after suffering a string of
defeats last year culminating with the DPJ winning the key Osaka
mayoral election, scrapped its standard electoral strategy and
fielded a young candidate with strong name recognition rather than a
political pedigree. The opposition DPJ has chosen an older,
decidedly un-telegenic establishment candidate in an attempt to
appear as the more responsible, trustworthy party.

Wanted: A new style of LDP
--------------------------
2. (U) Hashimoto's brain trust, former Economic Planning Agency
director Taichi Sakaiya, Hashimoto's TV promoter Shoichiro Ryu, and
other popular talent agency directors, have waged a guerrilla
campaign that has hidden overt signs of LDP and Komeito support in
order to seem more spontaneous and independent. They also borrowed
from TV marketing strategy to limit the candidate's exposure in a
"premium marketing" campaign, so that each appearance and poster
carried more weight.

DPJ: Your father's party
------------------------
3. (U) DPJ Tokyo headquarters also broke with tradition (over
considerable local DPJ chapter opposition) by forcing DPJ Osaka to
select its own candidate instead of working with the LDP to name a
consensus candidate. The DPJ strategy has been to show the party's
closeness to Sadatoshi Kumagai, a former engineering professor, by
organizing frequent campaign appearances by party president Ichiro
Ozawa, other party leaders, and Rengo trade union representatives.
Ozawa even skipped the Diet vote on the new Operation Enduring
Freedom refueling law in order to campaign for Kumagai in Osaka.

4. (SBU) The DPJ strategy appeared to be working. Initially the
business community, Komeito, and many rank-and-file LDP members were
either publicly neutral or opposed to Hashimoto because of his lack
of experience and frequent controversial utterances on TV. LDP
campaign strategy chairman Makoto Koga pressured the business
community to support the LDP candidate, and they have issued nominal
support. Komeito remains reluctant to get burned again by an overly
close association with unpopular LDP policies and candidates.
Nonetheless, it started to ramp up its support of Hashimoto.

Negative campaigns: Bad
-----------------------
5. (SBU) Young, unaffiliated voters began to come out for Hashimoto.
Once Hashimoto pulled ahead in weekend polling, the Kumagai camp
turned negative. One anonymous pampthlet circulated to three
million households highlighted several of Hashimoto's most
controversial public statements, questioning his fitness for office
-- all true, but taboo in Japanese campaign tactics. Poleconoff
witnessed DPJ Dietmember Takashi Nagayasu making similar comments at
a political fundraiser. The backlash in the blogosphere among young
voters was swift and unforgiving of Kumagai, who has denied
involvement with the pamphlets. Osaka housewives have started to
say that the stiff and graying Kumagai reminds them of their
domineering husbands, surely the kiss of death in this highly
televised campaign.

6. (SBU) Comment: It is too early to tell whether or not the LDP can
find well-known telegenic candidates for its other races. However,
it is apparent that the fear of losing yet more elections in major
markets like Osaka (Japan's delegate-rich second city) has motivated
the party to try unconventional measures at masking the ruling
coalition's lack of popularity and maintaining relevance in local
politics. In any case, experts are doubtful that neophytes like
Hashimoto will have any chance at tackling the pressing issues
facing Osaka Prefecture. Most important will be restructuring
Osaka's public finances, already on the verge of insolvency.
Second, Osaka's new governor will have to correct the growing
regional disparities with Tokyo in academic ability, domestic and
foreign investment levels, and employment opportunities. End
comment.

RUSSEL

UNCLASSIFIED 3

SIPDIS

UNCLASSIFIED

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