Sunday’s Lower House election saw a number of big-name lawmakers chopped down to size after losses in their districts, with a handful regaining seats in the chamber via the nation’s proportional representation system.
LDP Secretary-General Akira Amari, who had faced a tough battle in the Kanagawa No. 13 district, was the biggest name to be defeated. Despite the loss, Amari regained a seat in the lower chamber by being tapped for a proportional representation slot. Still, the loss was unprecedented for a party No. 2, prompting Amari to offer his resignation to Prime Minister Fumio Kishida late Sunday. Kishida said he would consider what to do with Amari, with an announcement expected as soon as Monday.
Amari was an early backer of Kishida for prime minister, and is one of the so-called 3A politicians, along with former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and LDP Vice President Taro Aso, who have cooperated behind the scenes to influence the party and its leadership.
Amari was forced to quit Abe’s Cabinet in 2016 after he allegedly received cash from a construction firm that was attempting to win a contract from a government-backed organization. Although public prosecutors ultimately decided not to indict him, the scandal has continued to haunt him. Amari has denied any involvement.
Asked if the past scandal had played a role in his loss, Amari lamented what he said was a “dilemma” in attempting to explain his views to voters.
“I felt it was a bit of a dilemma, since no matter how much I explained, it was hard to reach (the public),” he told reporters Sunday night at the LDP headquarters.
The LDP’s Nobuteru Ishihara, who also served as the party’s secretary-general from 2010 to 2012, wasn’t as fortunate as Amari.
Ishihara — a prominent member of the Ishihara political dynasty that includes his father, former Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara — joined his younger brother, Hirotaka, in losing their seats in the election. Both were denied a proportional representation slot.
Nobuteru Ishihara, the head of the LDP’s 10-member Ishihara faction, was defeated by Harumi Yoshida, 49, a first-time candidate from the main opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan (CDP).
“I’m truly sorry for the loss,” he said Sunday night.
Meanwhile, CDP Vice President Kiyomi Tsujimoto was among the highest-profile opposition candidates to fall in the election, losing her Osaka No. 10 seat to Nippon Ishin no Kai’s Taku Ikeshita. Although she was listed on the proportional representation ballot, Tsujimoto was unable to secure a seat.
“It was as if a tornado had swept through,” Tsujimoto said, referring to how momentum had shifted favorably for Ikeshita. Osaka Gov. Hirofumi Yoshimura and other Nippon Ishin members had stumped for Ikeshita during the campaign, with the party ultimately emerging as one of the big winners in the election with 41 seats, up from their pre-election 11 seats.
In one of the most surprising outcomes of the election, Ichiro Ozawa, arguably Japan’s most consequential and divisive politician of recent decades, failed to win a seat in his electoral district for the first time in his more-than-half-century career.
Ozawa, 79, who ran under the CDP’s banner, fell short in the Iwate No. 3 district against the LDP’s Takashi Fujiwara. Although the veteran lawmaker still managed to secure a seat via proportional representation, the loss in his Iwate stronghold highlighted his significantly diminished influence.
The night also saw former LDP digital minister Takuya Hirai defeated in the Kagawa No. 1 district by the CDP’s Junya Ogawa. Hirai, however, won a seat via the proportional representation system.
He had served as minister in charge of digital policies until the digital agency was established in September, going on to serve as the country’s inaugural digital minister until he was replaced in Kishida’s Cabinet reshuffle early last month.
Gaffe-prone former Olympics minister Yoshitaka Sakurada, meanwhile, lost in the Chiba No. 8 constituency to the CDP’s Satoshi Honjo, but will be returning to the Lower House via proportional representation.
Sakurada made headlines in 2019, when he resigned from his post after he told a fundraising party for an LDP lawmaker from the Tohoku region that the lawmaker was “more important than the recovery” of the region, which was rocked by the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami.
Sakurada is also remembered for his stint as minister in charge of cybersecurity, when — despite his high-profile post — he admitted to the Diet that he doesn’t use computers.
Information from Kyodo added
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