National / Politics

Yamao and Inada survive scandals but Toyota is booted out

Kyodo

Sunday’s Lower House election brought mixed results to politicians attempting to emerge from scandals.

Shiori Yamao kept her seat despite an alleged extramarital affair that forced her to quit the opposition Democratic Party.

The former prosecutor, 43, ran as an independent instead and won a third term after winning a neck-and-neck race against the Liberal Democratic Party’s Junji Suzuki in the No. 7 single-seat constituency in Aichi Prefecture.

Yamao, once seen as a rising star in the DP, left after the Shukan Bunshun weekly reported in September that the mother of one had spent at least four nights with a married lawyer over the course of a week around the time of the party’s presidential contest.

The scandal came at a bad time for the opposition party, which was already struggling to reclaim public support to challenge the Abe administration.

Before the scandal surfaced, newly installed DP leader Seiji Maehara was said to have Yamao on his shortlist for a key position, possibly secretary-general.

During her campaign, Yamao apologized but denied she had been in a sexual relationship with the lawyer. She pointed to her past policy achievements, including on child rearing and women, to capture support from unaffiliated voters.

Yamao was previously the party’s policy chief and had gained fame and support, particularly from mothers desperate to work, by calling attention to Abe and his government’s inability to ensure the availability of day care services.

Liberal Democratic Party lightning rod Tomomi Inada retained her seat in the Fukui No. 1 district, fending off Kibo no To (Party of Hope) rookie Koji Suzuki and Japanese Communist Party newcomer Yukie Kanemoto.

The former defense chief stepped down in July to take responsibility for failing to oversee Defense Ministry and Ground Self-Defense Force officials who tried to hide the daily activity logs compiled last year by peacekeeping troops in war-torn South Sudan.

During the campaign, Inada stayed in Fukui and traveled across her district to apologize at her rallies. She also stressed the achievements of the ruling LDP-Komeito bloc and gained support from conservatives.

While still defense minister, Inada faced criticism after suggesting at a campaign rally in June that the Self-Defense Forces backed an LDP candidate in the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly election. She also faced questions over her alleged ties with scandal-tainted Moritomo Gakuen, a nationalist school entity in Osaka.

Following the torrent of criticism, Inada stepped down in July.

Her opponents Suzuki and Kanemoto attempted to grab votes from people critical of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his team, but their efforts fell short.

In the meantime, a lawmaker who entered the spotlight after allegations she physically and verbally abused a secretary in May lost her Diet seat. Mayuko Toyota, 43, who quit the ruling LDP after the scandal broke, struggled as an independent in Saitama Prefecture amid tough competition from candidates from the LDP, Kibo no To, the JCP and Nippon Ishin no Kai.

Before she kicked off her campaign, she said: “I would like to restart from the bottom.” But most of Toyota’s supporters from industrial groups switched to her LDP replacement.

While declining to give details about the assault allegations, saying they are still under investigation, Toyota said she did not cause her secretary serious injury.

According to claims in the weekly magazine Shukan Shincho that hit newsstands in June, Toyota was sitting in the back seat of a car driven by her then secretary on May 20 when she yelled at him and struck him several times on the head and face.

The Shukan Shincho uploaded an audio recording of the alleged incident, in which a woman can be heard hurling insults, including “baldy” and “you should die,” at a man who reminds her that he is driving, apologizes repeatedly and asks her to stop hitting him.

The woman also screams, “How many times did you hit my heart?” and “Don’t damage my reputation anymore!”

Toyota was elected from Saitama’s No. 4 district in 2012 and re-elected in 2014. She has served in positions including parliamentary vice education minister. She worked at the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry before entering politics. While at the ministry, the government sponsored her studies at the Harvard School of Public Health, where she earned her master’s degree in public health policy, according to an article published by the school in 2014.