In Chiba, the DPJ’s one incumbent is party heavyweight Noda Yoshihiko, currently acting secretary-general under Okada Katsuya. While he won by just under 1,000 votes in 2005, he won by more than 50,000 votes in 2003. His seat should be secure.
Beyond Noda, DPJ candidates were revived in three districts. In the first district, Tajima Kaname ran against Usui Hideo, a longtime LDP incumbent, and lost by less than 20,000 votes. Tajima actually defeated Usui in 2003. This year he will face Usui’s son Shoichi, a former prefectural assemblyman. Given Tajima’s past success, he should have little difficult defeating a hereditary LDP candidate in a tough year for the LDP and hereditary candidates.
Nagata Hisayasu, the DPJ’s candidate in the second district in 2005, also won a PR seat, but was disciplined by the party for his role as the instigator of the Horie email scandal and then was booted from the House of Representatives. He died earlier this year in a death judged to have been a suicide. Despite his ignoble end, Nagata had enjoyed considerable success in the second district, suggesting that the DPJ still stands a chance of reclaiming it. Yamanaka Akiko, the LDP incumbent, had served a term during the 1990s as a representative of the New Frontier Party before returning to the Diet in 2005. Her challenger is Kuroda Yu, a four-term member of Chiba’s prefectural assembly. Kuroda should succeed at unseating Yamanaka.
The seventh district features a DPJ candidate who was the incumbent in 2005 but was relegated to the PR block. Matsumoto Kazuna, the LDP candidate who defeated him, was forced to resign due to a corruption scandal. In the by-election to replace him, the DPJ’s Oota Kazumi won, but will yield the seventh district to Uchiyama Akira, the losing candidate in 2005. Facing Uchiyama will be Saito Ken, the LDP’s candidate in the by-election to replace Matsumoto. Saito lost narrowly, but will likely lose by a larger margin in this election.
Elsewhere in Chiba, the DPJ has strong candidates in the third district, where Okajima Kazumasa will try to reclaim the seat he lost in 2005 from incumbent Matsuno Hirokazu; the fifth district, where Murakoshi Hirotami will try to reclaim the seat he won in 2003 from LDP incumbent Sonoura Kentaro; the sixth district, where Ubukata Yukio, who served three terms as a DPJ member before losing in 2005, will try to reclaim the seat from Watanabe Hiromichi, the LDP candidate who Ubukata had defeated in 2003; and the eighth district, where Matsuzaki Kimiaki, yet another loser in 2005 who had previously served three terms in the Diet, will face Sakurada Yoshitaka, the four-term LDP incumbent who unseated him in 2005. The DPJ’s candidates in these districts are strong, and in the third and the fifth districts the DPJ candidates should be helped by the absence of JCP candidates.
However, like in Saitama the LDP may be vulnerable throughout Chiba. In the ninth district Mizuno Kenichi, a four-term incumbent who won by 60,000 votes in 2005, is facing a tough battle against DPJ candidate Okuno Soichiro, a former post ministry official who has the support of postal interest groups. In the thirteenth, LDP incumbent Jitsukawa Yukio has a rematch with DPJ candidate Wakai Yasuhiko, who lost by 21,000 votes in 2005 but lost by only 6,000 in 2003 and won a PR seat. Wakai should prevail this year.
Three members of the Aso cabinet are up for reelection in Chiba. In the tenth, the incumbent Hayashi Motoo will once again battle Yatagawa Hajime, a former Chiba assemblyman who lost to Hayashi in 2003 and 2005. Hayashi, the chairman of the National Public Safety Commission, won by a sizable margin in 2005 but defeated Yatagawa, then running as an independent, by only 13,000 votes in 2003. In the eleventh district, Mori Eisuke, Aso’s justice minister, should cruise to reelection against an inexperienced DPJ challenger. In the twelfth district Defense Minister Hamada Yasukazu, a five-term incumbent, faces first-time candidate Chugo Atsushi, a former local assemblyman in Futtsu city. These three incumbents should be safe, although Hayashi’s seat is probably the most vulnerable.
The DPJ may come away with ten of Chiba’s thirteen seats.
The LDP’s position is even stronger in Kanagawa than in Chiba, with the LDP and Komeito’s having won seventeen of eighteen SMDs in the prefecture in 2005. The DPJ was actually completely shut out of Kanagawa, as the remaining seat was won by Eda Kenji, then an independent, now a leader of the YP.
The DPJ will have a hard time picking up ground in Kanagawa, not only because the LDP has strong incumbents in the prefecture, but because the JCP will be running candidates in thirteen districts. JCP candidates did not make the difference between winning and losing for DPJ candidates in 2005 given the overwhelming margins of victory enjoyed by LDP candidates, but in closer races this year their presence could be decisive — after all, in several districts the party’s candidates received as many as 30,000 votes in 2005. The JCP may not equal its vote from 2005, but the party’s candidates in Kanagawa cannot be ignored.
The LDP’s most secure incumbents are Matsumoto Jun in the first district; Suga Yoshihide in the second district; Amari Akira in the thirteenth district; and Kono Taro in the fifteenth district. (Although as a sign of Amari’s concern about the safety of his seat, he will be running simultaneously as a PR candidate, which he did not do in 2005.) The race in the tenth district, where four-term incumbent Tanaka Kazunori will be facing DPJ challenger Jojima Koriki, who until 2005 represented Tokyo first as a PR member and then as a representative from Tokyo’s thirteen district. Tanaka won relatively narrow victories in 2000 and 2003, but with Jojima’s being new to the district — and JCP candidate Kasaki Takashi also in the race — Tanaka should eke out another victory.
Despite the controversy surrounding his candidacy, Koizumi Shinjiro, son of former Prime Minister Koizumi Junichiro, should successfully win the seat vacated by his retiring father in a race that should at least be interesting, as the DPJ is running twenty-seven-year-old lawyer Yokokume Katsuhito against Koizumi fils. The LDP also has the upper hand in the seventeenth district, which is being vacated by the retiring Kono Yohei. The race to succeed Kono pits two thirty-something first-time candidates who have graduated from political academies and worked as researchers against one another, the LDP’s Makashima Karen against the DPJ’s Kamiyama Yosuke. The race will likely be close — an independent is also running, which could hurt Kamiyama. Makashima probably has the advantage.
There are several districts that are wide open. The third district may be a tossup. LDP incumbent Okonogi Hachiro won handily in 2005, but fought close elections against a DPJ candidate in 2000 and 2003. His rival is Yokohama city assembly member Okamoto Eiko, who would probably win in a two-way race but has to also compete with JCP candidate Furutani Yasuhiko and Your Party candidate Kato Masanori, both of whom could make a difference in a close race.
The fourth district too is open due to Asao Keiichiro‘s decision to leave the DPJ and join the YP, resulting in a three-way race between Asao, LDP incumbent Hayashi Jun, and DPJ candidate Nagashima Kazuyoshi. Hayashi, a one-term incumbent, won the seat in 2005 over a DPJ incumbent in another race with a divided field — the combined votes received by the DPJ incumbent, the JCP candidate, and a New Party Japan candidate matched Hayashi’s 119,000 votes. This race essentially pits Asao’s personal vote against the appeal of the DPJ label: who can peel off the most support from the others? Hayashi may survive as a result.
The eighth district also features a three-way race between incumbent Eda, DPJ challenger Yamazaki Makoto, a Yokohama assemblyman, and LDP candidate Fukuda Mineyuki, who finished third in 2005 behind retiring DPJ member Iwakuni Tetsundo and Eda but still won a PR seat. 2009 may see a repeat of 2005, when Eda beat Iwakuni by 10,000 votes, with Fukuda another 5,000 behind Iwakuni.
The DPJ should have an easy time in the fifth district, where Tanaka Keishu, the incumbent defeated in 2005 should be able to defeat Sakai Manabu, the Koizumi child who unseated him. Tanaka had previously won the district by sizable margins and should prevail, despite the JCP’s fielding candidate Iwasaki Hiroshi. While the JCP has received 30,000 votes in the district in the past two elections, Tanaka won in 2003 in spite of the JCP vote and should do so again this year.
The sixth district is currently held by Komeito representative Ueda Isamu, who first won the seat in 2003 when he defeated this year’s DPJ challenger (and then incumbent) Ikeda Motohisa by roughly 500 votes. Ueda expanded his margin of victory to 20,000 votes in 2005. The JCP, which received enough votes in 2005 to have made up the difference between Ueda and Ikeda, will be fielding candidate Fujii Midori — but Ikeda will likely prevail nevertheless.
The seventh district should be a pickup for the DPJ, as the seat is being vacated by retiring LDP incumbent Suzuki Tsuneo. The DPJ candidate is Suto Nobuhiko, who won the seat in 2003 and did well enough in 2000 and 2005 to win PR seats. The LDP’s candidate is Suzuki Keisuke, of no relation to Tsuneo, who was elected to the Diet as a PR member from South Kanto in 2005. Given Suto’s past success, he should win this seat easily.
The ninth should be particularly safe for the DPJ: Yamauchi Koichi won the seat as an LDP candidate in 2005 but recently left the party and will be running as a PR candidate for the YP in North Kanto. The LDP has yet to pick a candidate to run against the DPJ’s Ryu Hirofumi, who lost by 4,000 votes to Yamauchi (after winning the seat in 2003 from DPJ member Matsuzawa Shigefumi, now Kanagawa’s governor). The JCP will be fielding a candidate again — Tonegawa Takenori — after receiving approximately 15,000 votes in 2003 and 2005, but Tonegawa should have little impact on the outcome.
The DPJ should also retake the twelfth, with Nakatsuka Ikko, its incumbent from 2005, going against LDP incumbent Sakurai Ikuzo. The JCP is fielding candidate Watanabe Chikako, but the absence of SDPJ candidate Abe Tomoko, who received 26,000 and 35,000 votes in 2003 and 2005 respectively, should be a boost for Nakatsuka.
In the fourteenth district, LDP incumbent Akama Jiro — who won his first term in 2005 over DPJ heavyweight Fujii Hirohisa — faces a tough reelection fight against Kanagawa assemblyman Motomura Kentaro. The JCP, which received 23,000 votes in 2005, is fielding a candidate again, Akama Tomoko. The field also features an independent, Kuga Kazuhiro.
The sixteenth district features a rematch of the district’s 2006 by-election, which pitted third-generation LDP candidate Kamei Zentaro — succeeding his recently deceased father — against DPJ candidate Goto Yuichi. Kamei won by 29,000 votes in 2006, but as a first-term hereditary member Kamei may be particularly vulnerable to the national shift.
The eighteenth district, first created in the 2002 redistricting, was won by the DPJ in 2003 and taken by the LDP in 2005. The LDP incumbent, Yamagiwa Daishiro, lost in 2003 but gained a PR seat, and then won by more than 30,000 votes in 2005. His challenger, Hidaka Takeshi, won the seat in 2003 (and won a PR seat as a Liberal Party candidate in 2000), and as a former secretary to Ozawa Ichiro, will have Ozawa’s personal support.
The LDP should win eight seats in the district, the DPJ eight, and the YP two.
Yamanashi prefecture, with its three districts, will be fairly straight forward. The DPJ’s Ozawa Sakihito, a close confidante of Hatoyama Yukio, has won the district the past three elections and should win easily again. In 2005, the prefecture’s second and third districts were affected by the postal privatization battle. The LDP representatives in both districts were ousted from the party and were elected despite the presence of Koizumi assassins. In the second district, Horiuchi Mitsuo, a ten-term incumbent, was readmitted to the LDP in 2006 and faces the DPJ candidate who finished in a distant third in 2005, Sakaguchi Takehiro. Nagasaki Kotaro, the LDP candidate who finished second in 2005, left the LDP and will be running as a candidate from Hiranuma Takeo’s group. The result will probably be that Nagasaki will finish third and Sakaguchi second.
The third district, which also featured a postal rebel versus an assassin in 2005, will be simpler in 2009. Hosaka Takeshi, the rebel, won in 2005, returned to the LDP in 2006, but voluntarily resigned from the Diet in 2008 to campaign for the mayoralty of Kaishi city in Yamanashi. The result is that Ono Jiro, the LDP candidate in 2005, will run in 2009. The bad news for the LDP is that Ono finished 10,000 votes behind Goto Hitoshi, the DPJ candidate, in 2005. The DPJ should be able to win this seat, giving the DPJ two seats to the LDP’s one in Yamanashi.
Without being able to factor in the impact of the YP, it may be possible for the DPJ to take the thirteen seats won by the LDP and Komeito in 2005, leaving the governing coalition with eight, and the JCP with one.
It seems possible for the DPJ to win thirty-three of fifty-six seats in South Kanto, with the LDP’s taking nineteen, YP’s taking two, and Komeito and the JCP taking one each.