Scoop has an Ethical Paywall
Work smarter with a Pro licence Learn More



Cablegate: Of Madonnas and Manifestos: Kansai Braces For

DE RUEHOK #0135/01 2400909
O 280909Z AUG 09




E.O. 12958: N/A
SUBJECT: Of Madonnas and Manifestos: Kansai Braces for
Historic DPJ Win


1. (SBU) Summary: Voters in western Japan are poised to
hand a historic victory to the Democratic Party of Japan
(DPJ) in legislative elections, tracking developments
nationwide in a race highlighted by negative campaigning by
the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), a debate
dominated by issues of economic security, and a stark
contrast between the profiles of the two parties'
candidates. Burnishing its credentials as the party of
change, the DPJ has fielded a younger slate of candidates
in which women make up one in five first-time challengers.
While the LDP has grumbled about biased media coverage,
their candidates may survive in some conservative districts
as long-time supporters choose to split their votes between
the DPJ and LDP in the single-seat and proportional races.
End summary.

Advertisement - scroll to continue reading

Are you getting our free newsletter?

Subscribe to Scoop’s 'The Catch Up' our free weekly newsletter sent to your inbox every Monday with stories from across our network.

LDP Goes Negative

2. (SBU) In the weeks leading up to the election, every
Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and Komeito official with
whom we spoke consistently repeated the mantra that the
ruling coalition would not go negative because negative
campaigning rubbed most Japanese voters the wrong way.
With a week before the election and trailing in the polls,
Hyogo LDP incumbent Shigeo Omae had a change of heart. On
August 24, Mr. Omae's supporters were distributing
pamphlets headlined, "DPJ = Nikkyoso", equating the
opposition party with the leftist teachers' union, whose
members occasionally make the news for refusing to sing the
national anthem or failing to salute the flag. "We Can't
Put Japan in Their Hands," reads the cover, showing a
picture from an LDP rally with the Japanese flag displayed
prominently above the stage, implicitly contrasting it with
a shot from a flag-free DPJ event. The rest of the
pamphlet describes changes to the national curriculum that
Omae contends the DPJ is planning to implement, including
"graphic sex education." Next to picture of a pair of
anatomically correct dolls is the caption, "To advance its
agenda of 'sexual self-determination,' Nikkyoso is trying
to expose our children to graphic sexual education from an
early age, teaching them how to use condoms, showing them
videos of childbirth, even demonstrating sexual relations
and childbirth with anatomically correct dolls."

LDP: We're Misunderstood - and It's the Media's Fault
--------------------------------------------- --------

3. (SBU) The secretary of the LDP Osaka Chapter insisted to
us that the party has been unfairly portrayed by the media.
"The media is playing up all this business about 'change,'"
he sighed. "As far as substance goes, there's not much to
the DPJ manifesto." He characterized the DPJ's momentum as
a media-facilitated phenomenon, noting that news favorable
to the ruling coalition, such as Komeito's increasing their
seats from 22 to 23 in the Tokyo metropolitan election last
month, went largely unreported.

4. (SBU) Still, for the LDP, the only way forward is to
out-DPJ the DPJ in terms of offering measures to revive the
economy and "guarantee livelihoods," the LDP official said.
The LDP is encouraging its candidates to emulate their DPJ
rivals and "go back to the streets" to canvass neighborhood
by neighborhood, speaking to voters whenever and wherever
opportunities arise. The LDP's late attempt to shift
tactics has been somewhat frustrated, he admitted, by the
party's aging campaign organizations, long accustomed to
running top-down campaigns targeting business leaders for

5. (SBU) Surprisingly, in addition to blaming the media,
the LDP official singled out both former LDP Prime Minister
Koizumi and the bureaucracy for criticism. He placed the
blame for a widening gap between rich and poor on Koizumi's
decision to step down before his reform program was fully
implemented. He also blamed local bureaucrats for the
public relations disaster over lost pension records: "Of

OSAKA KOBE 00000135 002 OF 003

course we couldn't say it, but it's their fault. They
resisted computerization for years to pad jobs." Pausing
to reflect on the last election in 2005, he said that it
went too well for the LDP. "It was a bubble. We managed
to get 83 inexperienced candidates elected" -- the Koizumi
kids -- "and now the bubble has burst."

DPJ: "Change" Platform a Vote-Winner, but How to Rule?
--------------------------------------------- ----------

6. (SBU) At the DPJ Osaka chapter headquarters elation over
the prospect of a historic victory was tempered with
caution over the responsibility that comes with winning.
Reflecting on the extent of voters' malaise, one DPJ
official gave us his view that this election is about the
desire for "stable livelihoods." "It's about young people
not having to work one dead-end job after another. It's
about old people not worrying if they can survive on their
pensions. It's about parents getting the support they need
to raise families."

7. (SBU) While DPJ Osaka chapter officials are optimistic
that the voters' current mood seems to favor the DPJ
challengers over incumbents and youth over experience, they
are well aware that those same voters may not exhibit much
patience once the DPJ take over the levers of power, and
the clock will be ticking because the Upper House election
is just a year away.

Female Candidates Step Forward

8. (SBU) The media has regularly highlighted the "large
number" of women running on the DPJ ticket, paying
particular attention to races featuring telegenic DPJ
female challengers trying to unseat crusty male LDP
incumbents. Some high-profile examples are in Ehime, where
TV anchorwoman Takako Nagae (49) is challenging incumbent
and former Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuhisa Shiozaki (58),
and in Kyoto, where Mai Ohara (35), a former Self-Defense
Forces servicewoman turned beauty queen and non-profit
volunteer, is challenging ex-Finance Minister Sadakazu
Tanigaki (64).

9. (SBU) Despite the media focus on the DPJ's large number
of so-called "Madonna candidates," only 46 of the DPJ's 330
candidates, or 14 percent, are women. The comparable
figure for the LDP is eight percent. Still, the popular
perception among voters that the DPJ reflects "change" has
been enhanced by the higher percentage of DPJ female
candidates, as well as by the fact that women account for
20 percent of the DPJ's first-time candidates (32 of 164)
and that the average age of DPJ candidates is 49.3 versus
55.5 for the LDP.

DPJ Courts LDP's Military Constituency

10. (SBU) Although the Japan Self-Defense Forces carefully
observe political neutrality, the estimated one million
votes of SDF personnel and their family members have
traditionally gone to the LDP. A media contact in Kyoto
told us that DPJ candidates are multiplying their
appearances at SDF events in Kansai, such as port calls by
Maritime SDF vessels in Maizuru, Kyoto District 5. MSDF
personnel and their families account for 10 percent of the
population in Maizuru, and our contact told us that the LDP
is nervous that the DPJ is making inroads into what has
been a key constituency there. DPJ candidates have also
been seen with greater regularity at other base cities in
Kyoto Prefecture, our contact reports.

LDP Still Rules Local Government - For Now

11. (SBU) Whatever happens on August 30, the LDP will still
control local government in many conservative bastions like
Shikoku. In Kagawa, a DPJ official moaned that his party
has just three of 45 seats in the prefectural assembly. He

OSAKA KOBE 00000135 003 OF 003

said that local LDP lawmakers and their supporters had long
made life difficult for the DPJ - for example, branches of
the Japanese agricultural cooperative, Nokyo, refused to
rent out their facilities for DPJ rallies. Some predict,
however, that a DPJ victory on August 30 will have a knock-
on effect in prefectural elections and will lead to more
town mayors seeking endorsements from the DPJ.

Decentralization Proponents Favor DPJ

12. (SBU) In August, Osaka's popular Governor Toru
Hashimoto and a group of local-government allies endorsed
the DPJ, provoking cries of betrayal from LDP officials who
had helped elect Hashimoto. Hashimoto and Yokohama Mayor
Hiroshi Tanaka made the endorsement on behalf of the Shucho
Rengo, a group of five local leaders who have joined forces
to push Hashimoto's decentralization agenda. Hashimoto not
only gave the DPJ higher marks for the decentralization
planks in its manifesto, but he also praised the DPJ for
"moving to change the fabric of the country by harnessing
the energy of a change of government." The LDP's Osaka
chapter, which along with Komeito helped Hashimoto become
Japan's youngest governor in January 2008, exploded with
anger at the news, with LDP Osaka chapter head Taro
Nakayama saying he "boiled with rage" at Hashimoto's

Kansai Komeito Incumbents Likely Safe, but What Next?
--------------------------------------------- --------

13. (SBU) Komeito is a force in Osaka and Hyogo, holding
four of the 19 single-seat districts in Osaka and two of
the 12 in Hyogo, but heading into the election, local
officials seem resigned to the prospect of going into
opposition. The policy director at Komeito's Osaka chapter
told us philosophically, "We're not afraid of being in the
opposition. We were in the opposition for 30 years before
joining the coalition. But it's going to be terrible for
the LDP." Komeito is counting on its members' trademark
zeal to stay afloat even as the LDP founders. Despite the
success of all 23 Komeito candidates who ran in the Tokyo
Metropolitan Assembly race, the Osaka policy director noted
that the party's candidates in Tokyo finished lower in
their multiple-seat districts than last time around. In
Kansai, Komeito believes it can hold onto its four seats in
Osaka and two seats in Hyogo by attacking the "extreme" and
fiscally irresponsible promises made in the DPJ's manifesto.

Schizophrenic Voters: DPJ? Yes. LDP? Yes Again
--------------------------------------------- -

14. (SBU) Voters in traditional LDP strongholds seem poised
to re-elect LDP incumbents in some single-seat districts
even while voting for the DPJ in the proportional race.
The DPJ, which is fielding candidates in 11 of the 13
single-seat districts in conservative Shikoku, will likely
win several of those races outright, but all 11 of its
candidates may well end up getting elected thanks to a
strong DPJ showing in the proportional contest.

15. (SBU) In Ehime, the head of the DPJ's prefectural
federation told us that although voters in Ehime were as
fed up as the rest of the country, he expected their
frustration to translate largely into votes for the DPJ as
a party in the proportional election, with many of those
same voters still ticking the box next to the name of the
LDP candidate to whom they have long been bound by ties of
patronage and loyalty. "They'll vote for the DPJ with
their left hand and the LDP with their right," he said.


© Scoop Media

Advertisement - scroll to continue reading
World Headlines


Join Our Free Newsletter

Subscribe to Scoop’s 'The Catch Up' our free weekly newsletter sent to your inbox every Monday with stories from across our network.