Mr. Takashi Kawamura, a former Democratic Party of Japan member of the Lower House who gave up his seat to run in Sunday’s Nagoya mayoral election, trounced a candidate supported by the prefectural chapters of the Liberal Democratic Party and Komeito.

DPJ leaders, who supported Mr. Kawamura’s candidacy, believe the victory will have a favorable impact on DPJ leader Ichiro Ozawa’s decision to stay on as party head, but a close look at the election suggests that it only gives the DPJ and Mr. Ozawa a brief respite from a political donations scandal involving his chief aide. Various polls reveal that a majority of people are critical of his decision to continue as DPJ leader.

During his campaign Mr. Kawamura called for a 10-percent cut in municipal taxes and the Nagoya city government’s personnel expenses. This campaign promise alienated some DPJ city assembly members, the All-Japan Prefectural and Municipal Workers Union and the Aichi chapter of the Japan Trade Union Confederation. The latter two are important supporters of the DPJ.

Rather than relying on the DPJ machine, Mr. Kawamura utilized his supporters’ associations. He canvassed around Nagoya city by bicycle every day and spoke to voters in the local dialect. Even when DPJ acting leader Naoto Kan came to Nagoya to help his campaign, Mr. Kawamura chose not to campaign with him. Mr. Ozawa visited Mr. Kawamura’s campaign office briefly but didn’t even meet him. It is clear that Nagoya citizens voted for Mr. Kawamura because of his style and campaign promises, not because of his ties with the DPJ.

The DPJ recently won three of four mayoral contests in smaller cities against LDP-supported candidates, but it lost in the Akita and Chiba gubernatorial elections. The DPJ leadership should realize that the road ahead is bumpy. For his part, Mr. Kawamura will likely face strong resistance from the city assembly when he tries to make good on his campaign promises.

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