DPJ may have to rethink election strategy

Kyodo News

The Democratic Party of Japan may review its strategy for the upcoming Upper House election to ensure it can secure one seat in each district, rather than risking the loss of many seats by fielding multiple candidates, a DPJ lawmaker said Monday.

Jun Azumi, tapped as the DPJ’s campaign planning chief, said on TV he will consult with new DPJ President and Prime Minister Naoto Kan about whether the party will stick with its plan to field multiple candidates in districts with more than one seat at stake.

With public support for the party in decline, Azumi expressed concern that two DPJ candidates in the same district could both end up failing to win if the leadership doesn’t become more flexible with its strategy. The current plan was designed chiefly by Ichiro Ozawa, who is out as the party’s secretary general.

“The party is young, so to run the government we can’t let incumbent lawmakers with many years of experience lose their seats,” Azumi said.

The DPJ has already selected two candidates for many multiseat districts under the leadership of Ozawa, who is regarded as the most powerful figure within the DPJ and orchestrated the party’s landslide victory in last year’s Lower House election.

That may change following Yukio Hatoyama’s abrupt resignation as prime minister last week and Monday’s launch of a new party leadership by Kan.

The Upper House election is expected in July.

SDP targets Iwate

MORIOKA Iwate Pref. (Kyodo News) The Social Democratic Party, fresh off its exit from the ruling coalition, plans to field an Upper House candidate in Iwate Prefecture, the stronghold of Democratic Party of Japan kingpin Ichiro Ozawa.

The SDP’s Iwate chapter said Sunday it will reverse its earlier plan not to field a candidate in a show of cooperative ties with the DPJ.

Ozawa, the ex-DPJ secretary general, is a Lower House lawmaker.

The SDP chapter said it will field Masahiro Isawa, 62, a former prefectural assembly member, for the Upper House race expected in July.

The party left the DPJ-led ruling bloc early last week after SDP leader Mizuho Fukushima was dismissed from her Cabinet post for opposing the Japan-U.S. agreement to relocate the Futenma military base within Okinawa.

Others who have announced their candidacies in the district are incumbent DPJ lawmaker Ryo Shuhama, 60, Liberal Democratic Party newcomer Yukifumi Takahashi, 39, and the Japanese Communist Party’s Sadakiyo Segawa, 60.

Isawa, who also served as a member of the Morioka Municipal Assembly, ran unsuccessfully in last year’s Lower House election from a district in the prefecture.

Emperor’s schedule

Kyodo News

Emperor Akihito was experiencing minor cold symptoms Monday and canceled a visit to a fisheries technology center in Kanagawa Prefecture ahead of the planned inauguration Tuesday of Naoto Kan as prime minister, the Imperial Household Agency said.

The 76-year-old Emperor complained of feeling ill Sunday night at a villa in Hayama, Kanagawa Prefecture, where he had been staying with Empress Michiko since Friday. The Emperor was scheduled to visit the Kanagawa Prefectural Fisheries Technology Center on Monday afternoon.

The ceremony to officially install Kan as prime minister and an attestation ceremony for the new Cabinet were expected to take place Tuesday at the Imperial Palace.

Kan of modest means

In contrast with his predecessors as Democratic Party of Japan president, Naoto Kan receives limited corporate donations and owns relatively few assets.

Asset reports released last October and Kan’s latest funds report show the new prime minister received only ¥900,000 from four companies in 2008 and has ¥22.31 million in total assets, including those held by his wife.

These figures are dwarfed by predecessor Yukio Hatoyama’s ¥1.44 billion.

Kan’s assets include land he and his wife, Nobuko, own in his district in the Tokyo suburb of Musashino, forested land in Okayama, where his family comes from, and ¥13.94 million in time deposits. He owns no stocks or golf club memberships.

Hatoyama, meanwhile, had the largest asset holdings in his Cabinet and paid more than ¥600 million in gift taxes after receiving about ¥1.25 billion over eight years to 2009 from his mother, a daughter of the founder of tire manufacturer Bridgestone Corp.

Six political bodies affiliated with Kan, including his fund management body and the DPJ branch he heads, in 2008 received about ¥38.80 million from some 700 named individual donors. The donors include a 68-year-old part-timer at Tokyo’s Fuchu city office and Kunitake Kimura, 89, from Mitaka in Tokyo, who each gave him ¥10,000. Kimura said he has been backing Kan since 1976. Kan said during an address for Friday’s party leadership race that he has striven to finance his political activity with individual donations, adding, however, that he is “not confident that I’m 100 percent clear” of a funding scandal.