In Sunday’s Nagoya city assembly election, a local party led by Nagoya Mayor Takashi Kawamura became the No. 1 party. Although his Genzei Nippon (Tax Reduction Japan) failed to gain a majority in the 75-seat assembly, each of the traditional parties lost assembly seats.
Genzei Nippon’s strength increased from one seat to 28. The Democratic Party of Japan, which used to be the No. 1 party with 27 seats, garnered only 11 seats and became the No. 4 party. The strength of the Liberal Democratic Party fell from 23 seats to 19 seats; Komeito, from 14 seats to 12 seats; and the Japan Communist Party, from eight to five. The Social Democratic Party lost its only seat.
The election was held after the assembly was recalled in a Feb. 26 referendum. In late August 2010, Mr. Kawamura had started a signature collection movement to hold the referendum. He aimed to change the composition of the assembly so that it would approve his call for making permanent a 10 percent residential tax cut and for halving the number of assembly seats and the amount of assembly-member salaries. In one month, he collected 369,008 signatures from voters, enough to hold the referendum.
The election loss Sunday dealt a serious blow to the DPJ ahead of “unified local elections” in April. Mr. Kawamura is expected to field candidates from his party in various parts of Japan in the elections and deepen cooperation with former DPJ chief Ichiro Ozawa, the rival of Prime Minister Naoto Kan.
Mr. Kawamura’s maneuvers have had the effect of making traditional city assembly members examine whether they have seriously tried to address citizens’ needs and aspirations. But his populist style in favor of tax cuts could lead to the deterioration of city finances and public services for citizens.
Mr. Kawamura’s drive has the potential for turning the city assembly into a rubber stamp. While traditional parties must rethink their policies and attitude, voters must carefully think whether his politics is democratic in its basic orientation and will enhance their well-being.