|

‘Face of election’ Kawamura of Nagoya now the odd man out

Chunichi Shimbun

After deciding not to run in this weekend’s Lower House poll, Nagoya Mayor Takashi Kawamura’s status as the “face of the election” has faded and his frustration is clearly growing.

Kawamura, 64, heads the Nagoya-based Genzei Nippon (Tax Reduction Japan) party and helped steer the recent national-level merger of its members into Shiga Gov. Yukiko Kada’s Nippon Mirai no To (Tomorrow Party of Japan).

Though he is now throwing his support behind candidates from Nippon Mirai, the platform of Kada’s recently formed group no longer stands for, among other things, “tax reduction,” the phraseology having been replaced with “opposition toward tax increases.” Kawamura, who still leads Genzai Nippon, which is now only a local group, is not in Nippon Mirai nor is he one of its executives.

“Tax cuts are not even an issue in Japan. It’s truly a dilemma,” said Kawamura, a former Diet lawmaker who quit the Democratic Party of Japan before it won the 2009 general election.

With media polls indicating Nippon Mirai has failed to build much support among the electorate, Kawamura could only say: “I’m disappointed. However, there is nothing I can do but work hard (to back the party’s campaign).”

On Dec. 6, he gave a stump speech in Nagoya for a former Genzei Nippon member running in Sunday’s vote. People in the crowd that gathered to hear Kawamura’s speech later tried to shake his hand and some offered words of encouragement, but the mayor trotted out the same response every time: “Life is tough.”

Genzei Nippon started out as a local group in Nagoya in 2010, seeking a “revolution by the common people” against the existing political order and the major national parties. Some of its pledges include reducing residential taxes and halving the annual salary of Diet members.

The group decided to transition to the national stage in August, but it took more than two months to bring another two Diet lawmakers on board to meet the minimum threshold of five upper or lower chamber lawmakers to be formally registered as a national-level political party.

Genzei Nippon subsequently tried to merge with Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto’s Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Restoration Party), to form a “third-force” group strong enough to compete with the ruling DPJ and the Liberal Democratic Party, which ruled almost nonstop between the end of the war and its 2009 ouster by the DPJ.

But the plan failed after the national party fleetingly set up by former Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara in mid-November, Taiyo no To (The Sunrise Party), joined hands with Nippon Ishin, shunting aside Genzai Nippon in the process. After being ditched by Ishihara at the last minute, Kawamura turned elsewhere and instead decided to team up with Nippon Mirai, which was only created late last month by Kada.

Responding to a reporter’s question on Genzei Nippon’s missed opportunity to become a national force, Kawamura replied that his group’s failed attempt wasn’t necessarily meaningless.

“I got the chance to appear on NHK’s ‘Sunday Debate’ program. It was only that one time, which is a pity, but I’d like to think it was effective” nonetheless, he said.

Thanks to his relatively high profile as an outspoken former Diet member, Kawamura receives requests to stump for Nippon Mirai candidates all over the country. Yet he was left out of the loop when the party appointed its executives.

“I’m sure the people would be happy if there were more personalities like me. I don’t understand why things have to be this way,” he lamented, referring to Nippon Mirai giving him the cold shoulder.

But Kawamura, who once proclaimed his ambition to become prime minister one day, is not about to give up.

“I believe (Kawamura) feels a sense of isolation because he has not managed to remain in the limelight despite his popularity,” one of the mayor’s aides said. “But I think he will eventually make a comeback to national politics.”

This section, appearing Saturdays, features topics and issues from the Chubu region covered by the Chunichi Shimbun. The original article was published Dec. 7.