In a stunning development early Monday morning, Banri Kaieda, president of the Democratic Party of Japan learned he lost his Diet seat in Sunday’s Lower House election and is now set to quit as leader of the nation’s largest opposition force.
It is unprecedented for the head of a political party, who generally receives wide media exposure, to lose a Diet seat in an election.
Kaieda’s failure has underlined the DPJ’s weakening grip on swing voters in urban areas, particularly in Tokyo, which is known for having a high concentration of such voters.
Kaieda lost against Miki Yamada, the Liberal Democratic Party incumbent in the Tokyo No. 1 single-seat constituency that covers Shinjuku, Minato and Chiyoda wards. Kaieda also failed to win a DPJ proportional representation seat, which he won last election after losing to Yamada in the district in 2012 polls.
Kaieda is not the only DPJ candidate who fared poorly in Tokyo, which is well-known for its capricious swing voters. Former Prime Minister Naoto Kan also lost his seat in the No. 18 district against an LDP candidate, although he later squeaked through to win a DPJ proportional representation slot.
Kan, a vocal advocate of the abolition of nuclear power plants, won the very last seat in the 475-seat chamber.
Kan was prime minister during the 2011 Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant meltdown disaster struck, an experience turned him into a strong anti-nuclear activist.
But Kan is also notorious for possessing a short temper and he has been harshly criticized for micromanaging his staff during the nuclear crisis.
“First, I apologize for failing to win a seat in the single-seat constituency, despite your incredible support for me,” a solemn-faced Kan told supporters early Monday morning.
“I have received the 475th seat, thanks to the support from local people and others across the country who rooted for me,” he said.
Other big names who lost their Diet seats include Yoshimi Watanabe, founder and former president of the now-defunct Your Party.
After the party disbanded on Nov. 28 amid an internal power struggle, Watanabe ran in the Tochigi No. 3 district as an independent but was defeated by LDP candidate Kazuo Yana.
Hiroshi Yamada, secretary-general of Jisedai no To (Party for Future Generations), lost his seat in the No. 19 district in Tokyo and also failed to land a proportional representation slot.
Yamada is widely known as a historical revisionist and an influential polemist who has openly claimed that Japan did not force any females to work as “comfort women” at military brothels for Japanese soldiers during World War II.
Toshio Tamogami, another Jisedai no To candidate and a former Air Self-Defense Force chief of staff, also failed to win a Diet seat. Tamogami, too, is well-known for his revisionist and anti-Chinese views.
Jisedai no To, an extreme right-wing opposition party, won just two seats in Sunday’s election.