Many of the Liberal Democratic Party’s heavyweights did not escape defeat in their electoral districts Sunday at the hands of challengers from the Democratic Party of Japan.
The losers included former Prime Minister Toshiki Kaifu, former LDP Vice President Taku Yamasaki, former Finance Minister Shoichi Nakagawa and ex-Foreign Minister Nobutaka Machimura.
Kaifu will no longer have a Diet seat because he was not listed on the party’s proportional representation list that gives candidates a second chance to be elected.
It was the 78-year-old Kaifu’s first defeat in his 49-year career in the Lower House, having won 16 consecutive terms since 1960, including nine years in the opposition camp before he returned to the LDP in November 2003.
Kaifu, who led the nation from August 1989 to November 1991, is the first ex-prime minister to lose his seat since 1963.
He was defeated in the Aichi No. 9 district by 38-year-old Mitsunori Okamoto of the DPJ. Kaifu was not included on the LDP’s proportional representation list because of a party rule on age.
Machimura, 64, and Yamasaki, 72, lost to DPJ rivals in the Hokkaido No. 5 and Fukuoka No. 2 districts despite their clout as faction heads within the LDP.
Machimura’s faction, the LDP’s largest, has produced recent prime ministers, including Junichiro Koizumi and Shinzo Abe, while Yamasaki also was influential when Koizumi was in power as a close friend of the powerful and often single-minded prime minister.
It is not Yamasaki’s first election defeat, however, as he lost a race in 2003 while serving as vice president of the LDP. Until he was re-elected in a 2005 by-election, he served as special adviser to Koizumi.
Nakagawa, 56, who stepped down as finance minister in February after appearing to be drunk in a news conference at a Group of Seven financial meeting in Rome, was defeated by a DPJ contender in the Hokkaido No. 11 single-seat district.
The son of a former agriculture minister, Nakagawa’s political star had appeared to be rising until then, and he had held several portfolios, including agriculture and the economy.
Other LDP heavyweights who lost in single-seat districts were former farm ministers Tsutomu Takebe and Seiichi Ota.
The 68-year-old Takebe, from the Hokkaido No. 12 district, came to prominence under Koizumi’s prime ministership, being appointed as agriculture minister and LDP secretary general, and was known for his loyalty to the prime minister.