Asahi suggests that if Mr. Ozawa makes the jump from his home district of Iwate-4, he would run in Tokyo-12 against Komeito’s Ota Akihiro, who has only ran in Tokyo-12 twice, first in 2003 by a 3,600-vote margin and again in 2005, by a 36,000-vote margin. With Komeito vulnerable, especially after the party’s disastrous showing in the 2007 HC election, in which only nine of twenty-four Komeito candidates won, the party’s lowest “batting average” in an HC election since 1974, a victory by Mr. Ozawa over the party’s leader could be the symbol of Komeito’s demise.
The opposition might also have Tanaka Yasuo, former maverick Nagano governor and current HC member from Nagano as a representative of his own New Party Japan (NPJ) run in Tokyo’s eighth district against the LDP’s Ishihara Nobuteru, former cabinet minister and potential contender for the premiership in the future. Hatoyama Yukio and Okada Katsuya have also been mentioned as possible DPJ “assassins.”
There are some who doubt the wisdom of Mr. Ozawa’s scheme, however; Asahi notes that some DPJ members are concerned that if Mr. Ozawa has to focus on campaigning in a new district and defeating a prominent foe, he will not be able to travel the country on behalf of DPJ candidates.
I wonder whether this proposal isn’t indicative of (over)confidence on Mr. Ozawa’s part, so sure is he that not only will the DPJ be able to sweep the LDP out of Tokyo by parachuting heavyweights into Tokyo districts but that second-tier DPJ candidates will be able to retain seats vacated by said heavyweights. Maybe his overconfidence is merited, particularly in regard to his home district in Iwate (AKA Ozawa’s kingdom). Maybe the DPJ stands on the brink of a major victory in the next general election. There are certainly signs that suggest that a tipping point has been reached in the public’s tolerance for the LDP’s policy failures; maybe the Japanese people are finally ready to punish the LDP in a general election and vote for any candidate with “DPJ” next to his or her name. But if that’s not the case, this strategy could backfire by forcing formerly secure, heavyweight incumbents to campaign hard for seats while throwing their formerly safe seats open to competition.
In an election that could result in a hung parliament, all 300 single-member districts matter. The DPJ must think hard about whether Mr. Ozawa’s suggestion maximizes the party’s ability to fight across the country. Will the party be better off leaving Mr. Ozawa and other leaders in safe districts, enabling them to campaign harder for weaker candidates?