Former Chief Cabinet Secretary and Foreign Minister Nobutaka Machimura of the Liberal Democratic Party Sunday defeated a Democratic Party of Japan candidate in a Lower House by-election in Hokkaido’s No. 5 constituency. The DPJ’s defeat in the first Diet-level election since the inauguration of the Kan administration could deal the DPJ administration a serious blow. In particular, the administration may face difficulty in getting the fiscal 2010 supplementary budget passed through the Diet.
Voter turnout was only 53.48 percent, or 22.84 points below the turnout for the 2009 Lower House election. Even so, the election result shows that the DPJ is still unable to overcome voters’ criticism of the DPJ over the issue of money and politics. The by-election followed DPJ Lower House member Chiyomi Kobayashi’s resignation over her campaign’s acceptance of illegal funds from the Hokkaido Teachers’ Union.
The DPJ faces an ongoing money and politics issue. Because of a decision by a citizens judicial panel in Tokyo, former DPJ Secretary General Ichiro Ozawa will be indicted over alleged funds reporting irregularities.
In the Diet, the opposition forces are likely to step up their call for Mr. Ozawa to appear before the Diet to explain the funds-reporting scandal. If the DPJ fails to get Mr. Ozawa to speak before the Diet, the opposition forces may choose to boycott Diet deliberations.
More important than the issue involving Mr. Ozawa is Prime Minister Naoto Kan’s failure to explain what he thinks are the most serious problems Japan now faces and what measures he will take to solve them. He also failed to visit the Hokkaido constituency and the DPJ failed to energetically mobilize pro-DPJ organizations. Any party that lacks the will and strategy to fight will face a defeat in an election.
In the 2009 election, Mr. Machimura was defeated by Ms. Kobayashi by a margin of some 30,000 votes. Elected through proportional representation, he switched to voting district representation this time. This shows how he made light of the proportional representation system. This will create a lower-status bias against those elected through the system.