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Cablegate: Japan's Opposition Dpj Uses Recruiting System

VZCZCXRO1592
OO RUEHFK RUEHKSO RUEHNAG RUEHNH
DE RUEHOK #0128/01 1760354
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 240354Z JUN 08
FM AMCONSUL OSAKA KOBE
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 1129
INFO RUEHKO/AMEMBASSY TOKYO IMMEDIATE 8259
RUEHKSO/AMCONSUL SAPPORO PRIORITY 0226
RUEHNAG/AMCONSUL NAGOYA PRIORITY 2343
RUEHFK/AMCONSUL FUKUOKA PRIORITY 0216
RUEHNH/AMCONSUL NAHA PRIORITY 0239

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 OSAKA KOBE 000128

SENSITIVE

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV JA
SUBJECT: JAPAN'S OPPOSITION DPJ USES RECRUITING SYSTEM
TO BATTLE RULING LDP

1. (SBU) Summary. The Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ)
is tapping young candidates recruited through its
national headquarters to run against entrenched ruling-
party lawmakers in the next parliamentary election. The
process is sometimes a source of friction with local
party chapters, which complain that recruits have
strong resumes but no stomach for campaigning. Recruits
can count on a $7,000 monthly check, canned speeches
and a DPJ mentor. But the party closely monitors its
investment, and weak recruits run under the threat of
losing their endorsement before election day. End
summary.

2. (SBU) Seeking insights into the DPJ's strategy ahead
of Japan's next Lower House elections, post interviewed
three first-time DPJ challengers in Osaka and Kobe: Kei
Otani, a 37-year-old salaryman who graduated from party
chief Ichiro Ozawa's "boot camp" for politicians;
Koichi Mukoyama, a 51-year-old former city assemblyman;
and Toshiro Ishii, the 37-year-old adopted son of a
senior DPJ lawmaker. Their backgrounds underscored the
evolving mix of candidate profiles in the DPJ
recruits from the private sector, local lawmakers
climbing the rungs of power and "all in the family"
politicians. All three were recruited through the
party's national headquarters.

3. (SBU) DPJ national headquarters recruits mainly to
plug holes in districts that have been unable to find a
viable candidate of their own. Applicants must write an
essay and sweat through an interview with a senior DPJ
politician. Passing the exam does not guarantee a shot
at office, however. Recruits must win over the local
party chapter, a process that is sometimes a source of
friction. DPJ officials in Osaka told us that party
headquarters was too easily impressed by a good-looking
resume. Such candidates, they said, often lack the
humility required to make stump speeches to morning
commuters and to get along with local politicians.

4. (SBU) The DPJ's reliance on candidates recruited by
party headquarters varies by region, Ishii said.
Whereas the transient nature of Tokyo's population
makes voters there more accepting of outsiders, in
Osaka only two of the party's 16 Lower House contenders
were chosen nationally. But in rural areas lacking a
deep pool of talent, the number of recruits is
relatively high.

5. (SBU) All DPJ candidates receive a generous monthly
package of subsidies from party headquarters: 500,000
yen for campaign costs and 200,000 yen for personal
expenses. A DPJ staffer said the package makes the
party an attractive option for aspiring politicians
with no family connections. But he emphasized that
candidates need to be able to raise money to have a
shot at unseating an incumbent, estimating that
neophytes can bring in up to 500,000 yen a month
through fundraising activities.

6. (SBU) Though there is no field manual for new DPJ
recruits, the party has a mentoring system. Ahead of
the next Lower House race, each young DPJ politician
has been assigned an incumbent Upper House politician
as an advisor. Candidates also periodically receive
canned speeches and policy guidance by e-mail. But
party headquarters otherwise takes a surprisingly
hands-off approach. Mukoyama said his campaign had been
visited by senior officials from party headquarters
only three times since May 2007 for face-to-face
consultations.

7. (SBU) To be sure, DPJ headquarters closely monitors
the return on its investment. It conducts district-by-
district voter surveys, which Ishii said were
unreliable because the sample sizes were as small as
500 respondents. Candidates must report monthly how
many posters they put up, stump speeches they gave, and
volunteers they enrolled. Mukoyama said he typically
knocks on 200-300 doors per day and makes his pitch to
commuters in the morning and evening. Those running a
strong campaign can expect performance bonuses, while
laggards could find themselves dropped by the party
before election day. (Media reports have suggested the
DPJ plans to replace a handful of candidates.)


OSAKA KOBE 00000128 002 OF 002


8. (SBU) Otani, a graduate of elite Tokyo University
who worked for Sumitomo Corp. investing in U.S.
startups, is a veteran of a "boot camp" for aspiring
politicians run by Ozawa -- the Ozawa Seiji Juku,
founded in 2003. Twice a year for two years, 20 to 30
participants attend four-day retreats where the DPJ
chairman expounds his leadership philosophy. Otani said
the course was not intended to provide practical advice
for campaigning. Ishii described it as a shadow
recruitment system Q- a way for Ozawa to discover new
talent and build his support within the party. In any
case, only two of its graduates have gone on to
national office.

9. (SBU) Comment. Although the DPJ is widely associated
with "public" recruiting of candidates Q an image it
embraces to distinguish itself from the political
dynasties of the long-ruling Liberal Democratic Party
the term is something of a misnomer. Our interlocutors
said that local DPJ lawmakers have become the fastest-
growing pool of recruits for national office. Still,
the party has built a system that allows true outsiders
like Otani to throw their hat in the ring, and the
DPJ's push for power will depend in part on the success
of its recruitment strategy. End comment.

RUSSEL

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