Problems for ‘third force’ hopefuls

by Eric Johnston

Staff Writer

Tuesday’s start of campaigning for the Dec. 16 Lower House election found Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Restoration Party) and Nippon Mirai no To (Tomorrow Party of Japan) candidates battling for two very different visions of a future Japan, but the so-called third force parties also had organizational problems at the candidate filing deadline.

Nippon Ishin’s candidates are, for the most part, in their 30s and 40s, and 90 percent of them are male. They include former television announcers, former advertising and marketing directors, and a “dog spa” owner whose facility was designed to allow local children the pleasure of learning how to take care of man’s best friend.

The party also includes numerous former regional government officials, especially from western Japan, as well ex-members of the Tachiagare Nippon ultraconservative party, and former secretaries to Diet members from the Liberal Democratic Party. Nippon Ishin currently has nine Diet members in both the Lower and Upper houses.

While Nippon Ishin began in Osaka, only 36 candidates were standing for single-seat constituencies in the six prefectures of the Kansai region.

Nippon Ishin has spent the last few weeks desperately seeking qualified candidates. The party had originally hoped to field between 350 and 400. However, only 152 single-seat candidates were found and they are fielding 21 proportional representation candidates.

Shiga Gov. Yukiko Kada’s Nippon Mirai party is fielding 111 single-seat candidates and 10 proportional representation hopefuls. Due to controversy among her constituents in Shiga, the party is not running any candidates there. While a few candidates are company presidents, bankers and welfare workers, most are Diet members loyal to Ichiro Ozawa, who joined forces with Kada last week.

Nippon Mirai, though, has about two dozen women running and has agreed to cooperate with the Social Democratic Party during the election.

The majority of Nippon Mirai members are in their 40s and 50s, and the party is considered particularly strong in the Tohoku region. Kada kicked off Tuesday’s campaign in Fukushima, where she emphasized the party’s main promise of getting Japan out of nuclear power.

The founder of Nippon Ishin, Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto, meanwhile, launched his campaign from Osaka Tuesday, promising a tough fight with both the LDP and the ruling Democratic Party of Japan.

Organizational problems, however, plagued both parties in the days leading up to Tuesday’s start. Several potential candidates in both parties backed out at the last minute, and Kada’s party was unable to find any proportional representation candidates.