In a bizarre development, a Lower House member has decided to give up his seat and run for the same chamber again.
Takashi Fukaya, chairman of the Liberal Democratic Party’s Policy Affairs Research Council, intends to quit the Diet and run in a supplementary Lower House election in Tokyo’s No. 2 district. The poll is being held to replace Kunio Hatoyama, deputy head of the Democratic Party of Japan, who is relinquishing his seat to run in the April 11 Tokyo gubernatorial election.
In the last Lower House election, held in October 1996, Hatoyama was elected from the single-seat Tokyo No. 2 district, beating Fukaya, his longtime rival. Fukaya, however, gained a seat under the proportional representation system, for which he also ran at the same time.
Fukaya would be the first active Lower House member to resign from the Diet to run for a supplementary Lower House election.
Many Liberal Democrats, as well as opposition lawmakers, oppose his move, arguing that it suggests lawmakers elected under the proportional representation system are inferior to or rank below their colleagues representing single-seat districts.
The DPJ and New Komeito have said his intentions would be hard for the public to understand. In the meantime, a political movement has been started to reform the current election system, under which a candidate is allowed to simultaneously stand for election both in a single-seat constituency and under proportional representation.
Fukaya reportedly told Taku Yamasaki, leader of the Yamasaki faction of the LDP, to which he belongs, that unless he runs in the supplementary election, his political life will be doomed.
Fukaya and Hatoyama have fought each other for election for some 20 years, going back to the days of the now-defunct Tokyo No. 8 district. Their rivalry has further intensified since the introduction of the single-seat constituency system.
Fukaya’s defeat in the last single-seat election was humiliating to him, and most LDP lawmakers are apparently sympathetic to his determination to get elected from the single-seat district.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Hiromu Nonaka, while sympathetic to Fukaya, said the current election system leaves something to be desired and needs to be reformed.
Another lawmaker may follow Fukaya’s lead. Former Foreign Minister Koji Kakizawa, presently an LDP lawmaker representing Tokyo’s No. 15 district, has declared his candidacy in the Tokyo governor’s race, which will require him to give up his Diet seat and necessitate a supplementary Lower House election in his district.
Shozo Azuma, a Liberal Party lawmaker, is likely to quit the Diet to run in the supplementary election to replace Kakizawa. In the last election, Azuma was defeated in the single-seat poll but was elected under proportional representation.
When Fukaya resigns, he will be replaced by LDP member Keigo Ouchi, a former chairman of the now-defunct Democratic Socialist Party. Ouchi followed Fukaya on the LDP list of proportional representation candidates in the last election.
And in the case of Azuma, who was elected from the now-defunct Shinshinto list of proportional representation candidates, Sachiyo Nomura, wife of the manager of the Hanshin Tigers, who followed Higashi on the Shinshinto list for the 1996 general election, would fill his place.