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Cablegate: Dpj Defeats Ldp in Yamaguchi Lower House by-Election

VZCZCXRO9478
PP RUEHFK RUEHKSO RUEHNAG RUEHNH
DE RUEHFK #0027 1190911
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 280911Z APR 08
FM AMCONSUL FUKUOKA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 0364
INFO RUEHKO/AMEMBASSY TOKYO PRIORITY 0360
RUEHKSO/AMCONSUL SAPPORO 0142
RUEHOK/AMCONSUL OSAKA KOBE 0156
RUEHNAG/AMCONSUL NAGOYA 0141
RUEHNH/AMCONSUL NAHA 0148
RUEHFK/AMCONSUL FUKUOKA 0391

UNCLAS FUKUOKA 000027

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV JA
SUBJECT: DPJ DEFEATS LDP IN YAMAGUCHI LOWER HOUSE BY-ELECTION

REF: A) TOKYO 1076; B) TOKYO 1148

1. (SBU) Summary: Japan's main opposition party, the
Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) won the April 27 Lower House
by-election in Yamaguchi prefecture, dealing another blow to
Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda's administration. DPJ candidate
Hideo Hiraoka defeated LDP candidate Shigetaro Yamamoto to fill
the vacant seat that was created after Yoshihiko Fukuda was
elected mayor of Iwakuni. Hiraoka's victory has been attributed
largely to pocketbook issues, including negative reactions to
the restoration of the provisional gas tax, continued national
pension problems and the launch of a new payment system for the
elderly in the national health insurance system. Our contacts
inform us that the DPJ's victory will not impact the planned
move of Carrier Air Wing 5 from Atsugi to Iwakuni. End Summary

2. (SBU) Japan's main opposition party, the Democratic Party of
Japan (DPJ), won the April 27 by-election in Yamaguchi
prefecture, dealing another blow to Prime Minister Yasuo
Fukuda's administration. DPJ candidate Hideo Hiraoka, a former
Lower House member (who also had the support of the Social
Democratic Party) defeated the LDP-Komeito candidate Shigetaro
Yamamoto. The by-election was held to fill a vacant seat that
was created after Yoshihiko Fukuda of the LDP, who had defeated
Hiraoka in the 2005 general election, was elected mayor of
Iwakuni.

3. (SBU) Demonstrating the importance of this election to both
parties, the DPJ and LDP sent a number of political celebrities
to the district to drum up support for their respective
candidates. DPJ leaders such as Ichiro Ozawa and Yukio
Hatoyama, as well as LDP leading lights Taro Aso and Yuriko
Koike, pressed the flesh and gave town square speeches. For his
part, PM Fukuda -- against the advice of local LDP supporters
who believed his visit would have a negative impact -- visited
prefectural capital Iwakuni on April 20 to support Yamamoto's
campaign.

4. (U) DPJ victor Hiraoka enjoyed local name recognition,
having run in and won elections on two previous occasions. The
LDP candidate, on the other hand, joined the race only a month
prior to the election as a relative unknown. Further bolstering
the DPJ candidate's changes on election day was the relatively
high turnout of voters (69%). Generally, a low turnout rate
generally benefits the LDP and its organizational ability to get
out the vote.

5. (SBU) Most observers are crediting Hiraoka's victory to
negative reactions to the restoration of the provisional gas
tax, continued national pension problems and the recent launch
of a new payment system for the elderly under the national
health insurance system. In particular, the elderly in
Yamaguchi -- 70% of whom usually vote for the LDP -- deserted
the party in droves, and their vote this time was evenly split
between the LDP and DPJ, LDP party insiders informed us. Less
clear is the impact of Communist Party sympathizers. Unlike in
previous elections, the Communist Party did not run a candidate,
and how the party's supporters would vote was an issue of great
interest. One LDP insider confided that, while the Communist
Party's voters likely did not support the LDP, in the end their
impact was likely not that big.

6. (SBU) Comment: Contacts in the local business community and
Iwakuni Chamber of Commerce are confident that the election's
result will not impact the planned relocation of Carrier Air
Wing 5 from Atsugi to Iwakuni and that the governor and mayor
will continue to work towards commercial air service at MCAS
Iwakuni. End Comment.

CARRINGTON

WONG

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