Mock vote lets youths speak out

by Setsuko Kamiya

U.S. President-elect Barack Obama won big Wednesday, and a mock poll held at the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo indicates the senator is popular with young Japanese, too.

The embassy held a mock vote for non-Americans in Japan to show young Japanese how the U.S. electoral process works in a democracy.

The event, held together with U.S. consulates across the country, was probably the first-ever held by the embassy, although it has taken place in other countries, embassy officials said.

At an “Election Results Center” set up in Tokyo, some 900 registered guests, including Americans and Japanese, joined the event. As CNN relayed the results of the real election between Sen. Obama and Sen. John McCain on a large video screen, 168 people cast their votes at the embassy. The voters were limited to non-U.S. citizens.

The results? Obama over McCain, 129 to 39.

Ron Post, minister counselor for public affairs, said he wasn’t surprised by the outcome because other polls in Japan showed similar results.

“The older people in Japan in some cases were more comfortable with John McCain because he has a long record and has proven his leadership ability,” Post said. “But Sen. Barack Obama has come through this process and emerged from it as a leader, and that’s an exciting thing to watch. I think the young people in Japan as well as the United States can identify with that.”

Rikkyo University student Kimihito Hatori, 20, voted for Obama.

“The Republican government continued for a long time, so I wanted some changes,” he said, adding he did not support President George W. Bush’s war in Iraq or his weak environmental policies.

Hatori has never participated in an election since he turned 20 — the legal voting age in Japan — but said he would be interested in participating in the next one.

“I think I’ll choose candidates by considering which party they belong to, because you can’t really get to know Japanese politicians individually,” unlike the U.S. presidential candidates, he said.

Kazuki Nakayama, 22, of Tokai University, also voted for Obama. He said he wants Obama to fight poverty in the U.S.

Nakayama said he has never voted in Japan and is unsure he ever will. “In an American election, it is easy to see the confrontations, and it’s exciting. But I’m not that interested in Japanese politics,” he said.

Hiroaki Ishimoto, 22, from the Tokyo University of Foreign Studies, said he thought Obama showed more compassion toward the American people.

“Especially in these times, it’s important that a president be more concerned about the people than foreign policy,” he said. “He just needs to have a good military adviser.”

Ishimoto’s classmate, Kaoru Mamiya, 22, said she couldn’t support McCain because she didn’t want Sarah Palin to be the president if something happens to him.