Ozawa strategy of fielding rival DPJ candidates fails

Comrades were pitted against each other

Kyodo News

All but one Democratic Party of Japan candidate fielded at the initiative of former Secretary General Ichiro Ozawa as second DPJ runners in multiseat districts failed to be elected in Sunday’s Upper House election.

The DPJ fielded two candidates, including women handpicked by Ozawa and dubbed “Ozawa girls,” in 10 two-seat districts. Before he resigned last month as secretary general, Ozawa promoted the strategy to win a greater number of seats, despite worries among local party branches that such candidacies could split the party’s support base.

As it turned out, the DPJ neither won nor lost both of the seats in those districts. In the five electoral districts with three seats up for grabs, it secured two seats only in Aichi.

In the Nagano district, where two seats were in play, Defense Minister Toshimi Kitazawa won a fourth term while another DPJ candidate, Yoko Takashima, a former prefectural assembly member, was left empty-handed.

Kitazawa criticized Ozawa’s tactics as “a strategic mistake,” saying the same bullish approach used in the Lower House election last August, in which the DPJ swept to power, “diffused the (party’s) power and didn’t produce good effects.”

In the Kyoto district, Mitsue Kawakami, 39, who ditched her seat in the Lower House to run for the Upper House, failed to win as the DPJ’s prefectural branch focused support on the other DPJ candidate, Tetsuro Fukuyama, ostensibly to prevent the two from going down together.

However, Misako Yasui, a 44-year-old think tank researcher, won a seat in Aichi Prefecture thanks to the DPJ’s strong foothold there and support from Ozawa.

The DPJ, meanwhile, forged an electoral alliance with its breakaway coalition partner, the Social Democratic Party, in three districts by fielding joint candidates in Kagawa and Fukuoka prefectures and refraining from pitting a second candidate against an SDP incumbent in Niigata.

But they proved to be unsuccessful following the SDP’s departure from the ruling camp in late May to protest the government’s decision to relocate the U.S. Futenma military base within Okinawa Prefecture.

Elsewhere, seven former Lower House members who belong to Liberal Democratic Party managed to return to the Diet, but this time as Upper House members.

Nineteen former Lower House members who lost their seats last year ran in Sunday’s Upper House election, with 14 of them in the proportional representation portion.

Among the winners were former LDP Lower House members Satsuki Katayama and Yukari Sato, both part of the “Koizumi children” faction that debuted as Diet members under the leadership of Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi.