Higashikokubaru rues ultimatum

by Masami Ito

Miyazaki Gov. Hideo Higashikokubaru said Friday he regretted the political turmoil that resulted from his wavering over whether to accept the ruling Liberal Democratic Party’s offer to put his name on its ticket for the Aug. 30 Lower House election.

Speaking at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan in Tokyo’s Chiyoda Ward, Higashikokubaru recounted the uproar that resulted when he told the LDP he would run only on condition that the party consider him a candidate for the next prime minister, if it won the poll.

Higashikokubaru’s response drew harsh criticism from within the LDP as well as from the public, eventually prompting him to announce he would not run for a Diet seat, at least for now.

“I believe life is about recovering from setbacks and failure,” Higashikokubaru said, vowing to learn from the episode and turn it into an opportunity.

The Aug. 30 election is going to be a tough battle for the ruling LDP, which opinion polls indicate will lose its majority in the Lower House to the Democratic Party of Japan, the largest opposition force. The LDP had been hoping to attract voters by having the popular Miyazaki governor run on its ticket.

Even though he had been considering running from the LDP, Higashikokubaru said a two-party system is necessary.

“The LDP has effectively ruled Japan for (almost) 60 years, but no government can stay in power forever,” he said.

“Learning from European countries and the United States, I think it is ideal for Japan to shift to a two-party system for a mature democracy.”

In the presence of many foreign reporters, Higashikokubaru began his talk in English before quickly switching to Japanese. When asked if he would like to run for the prime ministership in the future, the comedian-turned-governor said he needed to study more English first.

“I didn’t want to become prime minister this time — I just wanted to advance decentralization,” Higashikokubaru said. “And I also realized that I need to study more English to become prime minister. I think it is a bit too soon for me.”