Looking at the 2007 single-seat districts

Over at Liberal Japan, Matt points to an article in the Yomiuri Shimbun pointing to a poll that shows DPJ support rising in both major cities and smaller cities and towns in rural areas. Based on this, he concludes — emphatically, by way of music videos — that the election is bound to be a landslide for the DPJ.

I wish I could be so optimistic.

The basis for his optimism is his conclusion that these poll numbers show that the DPJ’s rural strategy is working; Ozawa’s focus on touring the country rather than fighting in the Diet is set to yield major results for the DPJ. Now, I’ve praised Ozawa’s choice of strategy before, and having looked through the DPJ’s forty-six-page manifesto, including its three-plus pages on agricultural policy, I can confirm that the DPJ is indeed prepared to pump pork into the countryside, so that, er, they can continue producing pork for the cities. From biomass energy promotion to rice support to support for small-scale agriculture, the DPJ is prepared to pry open the jaws of the exchequer to prop up Japan’s farmers. The manifesto also shows that the DPJ has borrowed the late Mr. Matsuoka’s playbook in trying to sell agricultural support to precious urban voters on the basis of food security and the environment. (Mr. Matsuoka emphasized both during the Koizumi years, seeing the environment especially as a new way to keep the money flowing.)

But I disagree that one can simply call the election on the basis of a single public opinion poll. Accordingly, I looked at the twenty-nine single-seat electoral districts to see the potential for a DPJ landslide.

My conclusion:

LDP best-case scenario: DPJ 12 / LDP 17

DPJ best-case scenario: DPJ 19 / LDP 10

Barring a total collapse of the LDP, I expect the worst the LDP can possibly do in these districts is win a mere ten out of twenty-nine. In that scenario, the LDP would without question win fewer than the 15 PR seats it won in 2004, and assuming twelve seats from the two-seat districts and six more from the three- and five-seat districts, it would finish with around forty seats, falling far short of a majority.

In the best case scenario for the single-seat districts, the LDP would win 17 seats, perhaps repeat its 2004 PR performance and take one seat in each multi-member district and finish with fifty seats, enough to pull together a majority in the Upper House.

The reality will probably fall somewhere between the two, as I argued before. In other words, not a landslide at all.

Looking at the individual races is useful, because one immediately notices the number of senior LDP politicians up for reelection. Whatever the unpopularity of the government, each of these members enjoys the advantages of incumbency, and a number of them are norin zoku from rural prefectures, meaning that they have been well placed to provide support for their constituents. The DPJ has a difficult task ahead of it in many of these races, and I am not entirely sure that the candidates that the opposition has selected are up to the challenge.

Furthermore, the question of turnout remains. Will the opposition be able to bring out enough voters angry about the government to turn the tide to the LDP’s worst-case scenario? And will they be angry enough by the time it comes to vote? Will weeks of campaigning, hearing from incumbents about how they have helped the prefecture, be enough to mollify public outrage?

What follows is my assessment of each of the twenty-nine single-seat elections. As you can see, I outline the facts of each race, and then make a prediction based on my own reasoning. Admittedly, a lot of it is guesswork and hunches. I’m sure many of you will look at my notes and make drastically different predictions. I am interested to hear, one way or another. As always, your comments are appreciated.

Sources: Yahoo Seiji, Za Senkyo, the LDP homepage, the DPJ homepage, and Japanese Wikipedia.

The 2007 Upper House Election Single-Seat Districts

Aomori: two-term LDP incumbent (60), facing a young (37) DPJ challenger with little political experience and with a Socialist in the field too, siphoning off opposition votes (and incumbent Yamazaki won handily in 2001, 100,000 more than the combined DPJ/Socialist vote total). Aomori’s LDP governor won big in April.

My prediction: LDP

Akita: similar to Aomori, two-term LDP incumbent (57) is facing an independent (media personality Matsuura Daigo, age 37). The DPJ holds a single seat in the prefectural assembly, with the LDP holding a plurality and independents the next largest bloc.

My prediction: LDP
Optimistic prediction: Potential for an upset, with a media-personality independent winning in similar circumstances in 2004.

Iwate: “Ozawa’s Kingdom” has a DPJ incumbent, Hirano Tatsuo (53), facing a younger LDP challenger as well as a Socialist candidate (in his first election in 2001, the Socialist candidate received 60,000 votes, making the margin of victory much closer [6,000 votes] than otherwise). The “counterwind” may mean that Hirano wins more resoundingly.

My prediction: DPJ

Yamagata: In this open seat, the DPJ is running Funayama Yasue (41), a retired MAFF bureaucrat who lost by a narrow margin in 2004, due to the Socialist siphoning off more votes than the LDP’s margin of victory. This time the Socialists are backing Funayama.

My prediction: DPJ

Tochigi: Tochigi, shrinking from a two-seat to a one-seat district, features a showdown between a DPJ and an LDP incumbent. The LDP incumbent is Kunii Masayuki, an archetypal norin zoku — worked in agricultural cooperatives in Tochigi, elected to the Upper House in 1995, served in a number of agricultural policy posts within the LDP, in the Diet, and in the government since then (he’s currently the MAFF vice minister). In other words, the kind of politician who has access to the levers of power that enable him to bring tangible benefits home to his constituents. Facing him is Tani Hiroyuki, a one-term DPJ incumbent, with long experience in politics at the local level.

Tochigi may be the most important of the twenty-nine single-seat districts. Facing a leading norin zoku, a man uniquely capable of ensuring that his constituents have the support of the central government, will the DPJ’s rural appeal succeed? I doubt it.

My prediction: LDP
Optimistic prediction: A choice of Tani over Kunii could signal a desire among voters for a cleaner politics.

Gunma: With Kokumin Shinto carrying the torch for the opposition against future LDP giant and TV personality Yamamoto Ichita, this one might be one of the few seats that the LDP wins convincingly. (And adhering to the Okumura principle, Yamamoto has a brief article on the English Wikipedia, which informs us that he was once in a rock band. This leads me to add my corollary to the Okumura principle: Japanese politicians with Wikipedia entries in English and who once played in rock bands cannot lose.)

My prediction: LDP

Yamanashi: The DPJ may be well placed in the competition for this open seat, running the young (41) Fuji Television veteran Yonenaga Harunobu against a young (42) LDP activist and consultant Irikura Kaname.

My prediction: DPJ

Toyama: Toyama could be another pickup for the DPJ, with the DPJ supporting independent Morita Takashi, a young medical professional who emphasizes quality nursing care, against LDP incumbent Nogami Kotaro, who was first elected in 2001 — a Koizumi child — and whose record in his first term seems largely undistinguished. LDP candidates like Nogami are undoubtedly vulnerable.

My prediction: DPJ

Ishikawa: The open contest in Ishikawa features two relative heavyweights, the LDP’s Yata Tomiro, a long-serving prefectural assemblyman who ultimately rose to the assembly leadership and has experience with agriculture faces the DPJ’s Ichikawa Yasuo, a twenty-five-year MAFF veteran and three-term Lower House member washed away in the 2005 Koizumi landslide. Ichikawa probably has the edge here, and his victory would be an important step for the DPJ in the countryside.

My prediction: DPJ

Fukui: In Fukui prefecture, the DPJ is running another Lower House member defeated in 2005 against Matsumura Ryuji, two-term Upper House member, retired bureaucrat (National Police Agency) and vice minister of the Transportation Ministry (and let’s not forget his various policy “activities” in various PARC committees). Both are hardly young, the DPJ candidate Wakaizumi 61, Matsumura 69. But like elsewhere, this may be an election that comes down to the national mood: when the citizens of Fukui vote, will it be based on their attitude to the government, or will it be based on their gratitude to Mr. Matsumura for his “service” to the prefecture? It may be contrarian of me, but I suspect the latter.

My prediction: LDP
Optimistic prediction: DPJ

Shiga: The DPJ is running Tokunaga Hisashi (44), a prefectural assemblyman who lost his first bid for the prefectural assembly in 1991, worked for a bit, became a secretary to a Lower House member in 1997, and won a prefectural assembly seat in 1999. His opponent is Yamashita Hidetoshi, first elected in a by-election in 2000 and reelected in 2001; he was parliamentary secretary in the Finance Ministry under Koizumi and chair of the Upper House’s health and welfare committee. With Shiga one of the few growing prefectures in Japan (although part of that growth is foreign labor) and home to major corporations, one would it expect it to incline increasingly away from the LDP. It is difficult to predict based on recent elections, however, although the 2006 gubernatorial election, in which Socialist Kada Yukiko surprisingly defeated an LDP/DPJ/Komeito candidate suggests that floating voters may rule. Expect Yamashita to be one of the losing incumbents.

My prediction: DPJ

Mie: The incumbent is the DPJ’s Takashi Chiaki, who worked with JA Mie, the prefectural federation of agricultural cooperatives, before being elected in 2000 in a by-election. His LDP opponent is Harvard alum (School of Public Health) and Rotary fellow Onozaki Kohei. While Onozaki is thirteen years’ Takashi’s junior, I have a hard time seeing the DPJ incumbent losing, no matter how many pictures of his children Onozaki puts on his webpage.

My prediction: DPJ

Nara: The DPJ candidate is Nakamura Tetsuji, another DPJ Lower House member unseated in 2005. Only 36, Nakamura has already served two terms in the Lower House and sat in the DPJ’s Next Cabinet as next vice minister of Internal Affairs and Communications responsible for information and communications. (He was also a policy secretary straight out of university and apparently pioneered the use of the “mail magazine.”) He is opposed by Matsui Masatake, a dentist and long-serving prefectural assemblymen who ultimately became head of the assembly. This looks like a win for the DPJ, but the DPJ contingent in the prefectural assembly held steady in April, and the DPJ did not field a gubernatorial candidate, suggesting a weaker local organization.

My prediction: DPJ

Wakayama: The Wakayama race pits Seko Hiroshige, adviser to Prime Minister Abe on communications, against the DPJ’s Sakaguchi Naoto, head of an NGO that does post-civil war peace-building and reconstruction (during the 1990s he volunteered through MOFA to assist with precisely that). Due to Seko’s presence in the campaign, the Abe Cabinet’s record will undoubtedly be an important factor in the outcome. Seko was reelected resoundingly in 2001, with 319,080 votes, more than twice the total of the three candidates opposing him. That total will be diminished without Koizumi, but how much will his service in the Abe Cabinet harm Seko? (Sakaguchi’s background may also make the Abe Cabinet’s designs for Japanese security policy an issue, oddly enough.)

My prediction: LDP
Optimistic prediction: If anger at Abe is that deep, then expect Seko to pay the price.

Tottori: The LDP incumbent, Tsuneda Takayoshi, is another member of the LDP’s Upper House class of 1995 and another norin zoku member, serving on a number of MAFF-related Diet committees and LDP policy making committees in his twelve years. (This following a career in Tottori’s assembly, in which he also specialized in agriculture.) Kawakami Yoshihiro, his DPJ opponent, is a former LDP member elected in 2003 as an independent member of the Lower House. Kawakami then joined the Kamei faction, voted against postal reform and was “assassinated” in 2005. He joined the DPJ in 2006. I expect Tsuneda will hold on to his seat.

My prediction: LDP

Okayama: In Okayama, there is a five-way race (LDP, DPJ, Communist, Independent, a small party), with the LDP candidate being LDP Upper House Secretary-General Katayama Toranosuke. His DPJ opponent is Himei Yumiko, a judicial scrivener who has served in the prefectural assembly. If Katayama cannot hold onto his seat, the LDP is in major trouble.

My prediction: LDP

Shimane: Facing another member of the LDP class of 1995 holding a senior position, Kageyama Shuntaro, the opposition parties are backing Kamei Akiko, daughter of Kokumin Shinto Secretary-General Kamei Hisaoki, who has worked as an aide to her father but never been elected to office before. (After studying in Canada, she worked as a translator, including at the Nagano Olympics and the Japan-Korea World Cup.) I doubt the Kamei name will be enough to defeat Kageyama.

My prediction: LDP

Yamaguchi: In Prime Minister Abe’s “home” prefecture, the LDP incumbent, Hayashi Yoshimasa, is another member of the class of 1995 and currently vice minister in the Cabinet Office (and another LDP Harvardian). His DPJ opponent is Tokura Takako, a community activist running for her first public office. Hayashi, reelected in 2001 by a wide margin, should be able to hold his seat.

My prediction: LDP

Tokushima: In Tokushima, yet another LDP incumbent from the class of 1995, Kitaoka Shuji is facing the DPJ’s Nakatani Tomoji, a thirty-eight-year-old retired salaryman. Based on the previous two elections, Kitaoka might be in trouble. First, in 2001 he was reelected by what may be the slimmest margin for an LDP candidate in a year in which the LDP could not lose: 198,387 to 116,278, with 50,000 more votes split between three other candidates. This time, it is just LDP, DPJ, and JCP. Second, in 2004, in a campaign for an open seat, the LDP candidate won by the narrow margin of 166,032 to 153,057. An upset is not guaranteed, however, with only four DPJ members, including two incumbents, elected to the prefectural assembly in April (although a good number of independents were elected too, nine for the first time).

My prediction: DPJ

Kagawa: In Kagawa, LDP four-term incumbent and former Environment Agency Director-General Manabe Genji faces thirty-nine-year-old DPJ candidate Uematsu Emiko, who previously ran in 2004, losing narrowly to LDP incumbent Yamauchi Toshio, 204,392 votes to 197,370. Based on her own electoral record and her youth, together with the general mood, Uematsu may knock off the septuagenarian Manabe.

My prediction: DPJ

Ehime: The DPJ is facing senior LDP incumbent Sekiya Katsutsugu, an eight-term Lower House member-cum-two-term Upper House member, chairman of the Upper House’s committee on constitution revision, and construction minister in the Obuchi Cabinet (I can only imagine the largess Ehime received then, with him as the construction minister and the government in a fit of Keynesian pump priming). The opposition parties have opted for an independent celebrity candidate to face Sekiya, recently retired Ehime FC footballer Tomochika Toshiro (32). In the 2004 Upper House election, Ehime was open, and the LDP candidate won by 50,000 votes. Sekiya will probably win comfortably.

My prediction: LDP.

Kochi: Two-term LDP incumbent Tamura Kohei, who has held a number of senior parliamentary, party, and government posts since being elected in 1995, is facing DPJ Kochi City Council Member Takeuchi Norio. Tamura could find himself in trouble; in 2001 he had a relatively narrow win over independent candidate Hirota Hajime, who went on to beat the LDP incumbent in 2004.

My prediction: LDP
Optimistic prediction: My gut tells me that the DPJ can pull off an upset against Tamura. If Chertoff can go by his gut, so can I.

Saga: Contending for the open seat in Saga are the LDP’s Kawakami Yoshiyuki, a construction (later transportation) ministry bureaucrat turned vice-governor of Saga prefecture, and Kawasaki Minoru, a retired Bank of Japan economist. Kawasaki ran in 2004, and lost by a mere 20,000 votes. Yomiuri reported on 14 July that Saga looks to be a major battleground, with the government sending most of the campaign and a number of other senior LDP leaders to campaign for Kawakami. That could turn the tide for the LDP, meaning another close loss for Kawasaki. Of course, that the LDP has to fight hard for a prefecture it has long dominated is significant in itself.

My prediction: LDP
Optimistic prediction: Visits by Prime Minister Abe and others refuse to staunch public outrage, and Kawasaki ekes out a close win.

Nagasaki: In what may well be the “Kyuma election,” DPJ candidate Okubo Yukishige, a prefectural assemblyman who lost to Kyuma in 2005, is facing LDP candidate Komine Tadatoshi, a school principal. With the DPJ having won handily in 2004 and the LDP tainted by Kyuma, I expect Okubo will prevail.

My prediction: DPJ

Kumamoto: In another test for the DPJ’s agricultural strategy, the DPJ is contending with another LDP norinzoku giin incumbent first elected in 1995, Miura Issui. MAFF vice minister, member of various LDP agriculture policy committees, and a native of the late Mr. Matsuoka’s Kumamoto prefecture to boot, Miura is another member capable of bringing public funds home to this rural Kyushu prefecture. Facing him is Matsuo Nobuo, a lawyer and onetime DPJ member of the Lower House — like others, he was first elected in 2003 but defeated in the 2005 landslide. Consistent with the results for other norinzoku members facing reelection, I expect that the voters of Kumamoto will send Mr. Miura back to Tokyo, even if Yomiuri finds that some are more concerned with pensions than with agricultural support. Miura may have to work a little harder, and the margin of victory may be narrower, but the interests will win out.

My prediction: LDP

Oita: The situation is somewhat turbulent in Oita, as the DPJ declined to support the SDP candidate, who is now running as an independent. The incumbent, meanwhile, is Kokumin Shinto member Goto Hiroko; she was first elected in 2001 as an LDP member, but left the party after the postal rebellion and joined Kokumin Shinto. I think it is an open question whether the voters of Oita will opt for her again, now that she’s joined a marginal party. With the opposition split among two independents, Goto, and the JCP candidate, the LDP candidate, Isozaki Yosuke, a retired bureaucrat, could win more or less by default.

My prediction: LDP

Miyazaki: The race in Miyazaki is similar messy. The LDP incumbent, Kosehira Toshifumi, was first elected in 2001 with 199,171 votes. Two independents took 172,023 and 155,269 votes each. Kosehira, a norin zoku giin in training, holds positions on a number of PARC agriculture committees and sub-committees, and he may once again benefit from a divided race. The Socialists, DPJ, and Kokumin Shinto have endorsed Toyama Itsuki, a DPJ activist — who is running as an independent, to the chagrin of some DPJ members. Toyama may have an advantage going into the election, but three other independents and a JCP candidate could divert votes away, giving Kosehira a narrow victory.

My prediction: LDP
Optimistic prediction: The DPJ and its partners overcome divisions in the final two weeks of campaigning and present a clear challenge to the LDP, diminishing the appeal of votes for other independents.

Kagoshima: Kagoshima is a straight-up LDP incumbent vs. DPJ challenger vs. JCP challenger election. The LDP incumbent is Kajiya Yoshito, another incipient member of the norin zoku as the chairman of the Upper House agriculture committee and participant in the LDP’s agriculture policy committees. Like Kosehira, Kajiya was first elected in 2001 with more than double the votes of his closest rival. The LDP candidate in 2004 received a similar number of votes, although with only DPJ and JCP candidates with whom to contend the margin of victory was smaller. Given that the LDP candidate in 2001 and 2004 received 435,300 and 455,591 votes respectively, and LDP candidates had a strong showing in April’s prefectural assembly elections, Kajiya is probably safe from DPJ challenger Minayoshi Inao, a Rengo activist who was the DPJ candidate in 2004 (he received 315,560 votes).

My prediction: LDP

Okinawa: Ozawa has been repeatedly frustrated in Okinawa, losing a gubernatorial election and Upper House by-election since becoming head of the DPJ. The opposition is supporting indepdent Itokazu Keiko, who won the Upper House election in 2004 but left to contend for the governorship in 2006, which she lost. In that election, Itokazu received 309,985 votes, losing by fewer than 40,000 votes. But Itokazu actually received fewer votes in 2006 than she received in 2004 as an Upper House candidate (316,148 votes). However, Nishime Junshiro, the LDP incumbent, was first elected in 2001 with 265,821 votes, meaning that he has a lot of work to do to compete with Itokazu.

My prediction: DPJ

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