The Shikoku regional block includes Tokushima, Kagawa, Ehime and Kochi prefectures. Combined, they elect thirteen representatives from single-member districts and another six through proportional representation, making Shikoku the smallest block, one seat behind Hokkaido’s twenty.
It is also, of course, a region in which the LDP has been historically strong and like elsewhere, a region where its grip may be weakening. The LDP won eleven of thirteen SMDs in 2005, with the DPJ and an independent postal rebel splitting the remaining two seats. The PR breakdown was three seats for the LDP, two for the DPJ, and one for Komeito. 2003 was similar, except that the LDP won twelve seats and the DPJ one. The PR results were the same in 2003 as they were in 2005.
However, one of the surprises from the 2007 upper house election was the opposition’s winning all four seats in Shikoku. (Each prefecture is a single-member district in the upper house.) Indeed, for me one of the most revealing moments in the campaign was when the LDP’s Tamura Kohei, fighting what was ultimately a losing campaign for reelection in Kochi, publicly questioned then-Prime Minister Abe Shinzo’s “beautiful country” rhetoric, basically saying that instead of sending words, the government should send money to his constituents.
Between 2007’s results in Shikoku and this recent Sankei poll that suggests that the DPJ is polling 56% in the proportional representation race in Shikoku, a ten-point increase over 2005’s PR results in the block, the DPJ should at least gain some ground in Shikoku.
In Tokushima in 2005 the LDP and the DPJ each took one seat, with the third going to an independent.
The DPJ’s Sengoku Yoshito (first district) should be easily reelected over the LDP’s Okamoto Yoshiro, who lost by 14,000 votes in 2005 but won a PR seat.
The second district features LDP incumbent Yamaguchi Shunichi, who won the seat in 2005 as independent after he left the party as a postal rebel. He rejoined the LDP in 2006 along with other repentant rebels. This year he faces the DPJ’s Takai Miho who has contested the seat for the DPJ in each election since 2000. In 2003 she lost by 10,000 votes and won a PR seat. She belated received a PR seat in 2005 when the DPJ candidate ranked above her was forced to resign. She should win this time around.
Finally, in the third district the LDP’s Gotoda Masazumi, the great-nephew of notable former Chief Cabinet Secretary Gotoda Masaharu, has won his seat comfortably since his first election in 2000. This year he faces Niki Hirobumi, who was the DPJ candidate in 2003 and 2005. Niki received 10,000 more votes in 2005 than he received in 2003, but he still lost by more than 38,000 votes. Gotoda should win reelection.
Nevertheless, the DPJ should win two of three seats in Tokushima.
The LDP won all three of Kagawa’s SMDs in 2005.
It is vulnerable, however, in the first district, where incumbent Hirai Takuya faces the DPJ’s Ogawa Junya for the third time. Ogawa, a former internal affairs ministry official, lost by 12,000 votes in 2005 and won a PR seat. This time around Ogawa will likely win the district outright.
The DPJ is also fielding a former bureaucrat in the second district: Tamaki Yuichiro, a former budget examiner in the finance ministry, is running for the second consecutive election against the LDP’s Kimura Yoshio. Kimura won by 30,000 votes in 2005, but Tamaki will make it a close race this time. Kimura is probably safe, but Tamaki should win a PR seat.
The LDP’s Ono Yoshinori (third district) has won easily in the past and faces a divided field — SDPJ (and DPJ-backed) candidate Maida Haruhiko, JCP candidate Chikaishi Michiko, and independent Manabe Takeshi, son of Manabe Kenji, an LDP upper house member who voted against postal privatization and was defeated in 2007 — suggesting that Ono will win comfortably again.
The DPJ will likely win one of three seats in Kagawa, with a decent chance of winning a second.
Ehime, the biggest prefecture in Shikoku with four SMDs, awarded them all to the LDP in 2005.
In the first district, Shiozaki Yasuhisa, chief cabinet secretary under former Prime Minister Abe Shinzo, is considered one of the LDP’s marked men, despite having been reelected by large margins in the past. He faces the DPJ’s Nagae Takako, who for fifteen years was an announcer on Nankai Broadcasting’s popular Sunday afternoon news program, dubbed a “female assassin” by the media. Despite the enthusiasm for Nagae, she still has an uphill battle. In the past three elections Shiozaki has not won by less than 50,000 votes, and the JCP, fielding candidate Tanaka Katsuhiko, could make the difference in a close race as the JCP has received more than 10,000 votes in the past three elections. Shiozaki will probably hold on to win.
The LDP is safer in the second district, where incumbent Murakami Seiichiro faces SDPJ candidate Okahira Tomoko, who should benefit from the JCP’s not fielding a candidate but not enough to unseat Murakami.
In the third district the DPJ may have a chance to win the seat being vacated by a retiring Ono Shinya, a five-term Diet member. In his place the LDP is fielding prefectural assembly member Shiraishi Toru against DPJ candidate Shiraishi Yoichi (seriously: Shiraishi versus Shiraishi). Unlike in the past, the DPJ is fielding the sole opposition candidate — in 2003 Ono won by 30,000 votes, but when the DPJ candidate’s 41,000 votes are combined with the nearly 12,000 votes received by the SDPJ candidate, the nearly 11,000 received by the JCP’s candidate, and the 8,000 received by an independent, Ono’s victory in 2003 looks less impressive. The field was not divided in 2005, but Ono obviously had help from the national tailwind enjoyed by the LDP. Shiraishi Yoichi could pick up this seat for the DPJ.
In the fourth district, five-time LDP incumbent Yamamoto Koichi, who has won by exceedingly large margins in every election since 1996, should cruise to reelection against DPJ candidate Takahashi Hideyuki, who shares the field with independent Sakurauchi Fumiki, a more serious independent candidate than most in that he has an elite pedigree: Todai law faculty, finance ministry, Master’s in Public Policy from the Harvard Kennedy School, Ph.D. from the University of Malaya, and a long list of think tank and advisory positions. He won’t win, but he will make it that much harder for Takahashi to win. Sakurai has the backing of Watanabe Yoshimi’s Your Party.
The DPJ will likely win one of four seats in the prefecture.
Kochi has three seats, all of which were won by the LDP in 2005.
The DPJ stands a strong chance of winning the first district, where LDP incumbent Fukui Teru won by only 4,000 votes over the DPJ’s Goto Masanori. This district is one district where the presence of a JCP candidate decided the election: the JCP’s Haruna Naoaki received 22,000 votes, more than enough to throw the election to Fukui. Running in Goto’s place this year is Tamura Kumiko, who was previously the DPJ’s candidate in Kochi’s second district. Tamura, however, shares the field with Haruna and the wild card, Hashimoto Daijiro, brother of the late Hashimoto Ryutaro and former governor of Kochi. In a straight LDP-DPJ race Tamura might have won easily, but with Haruna and Hashimoto in the race, Fukui could survive. Of course, it’s possible that Hashimoto, who in July 2008 announced grand plans for a new party that have amounted to very little, will be crushed by the power of Duverger’s law. Indeed, this district should provide a good test of the trend to a two-party system. If party identification matters above all else in this election, then both Hashimoto’s personal popularity and the JCP’s support should surmounted by a tide of support for the DPJ. I’m betting on Duverger’s law: Tamura wins the seat.
In the second district, LDP incumbent Nakatani Gen, a former chief of the Japan Defense Agency, faces DPJ newcomer Kusumoto Kiyo and JCP candidate Yamanaka Masahiro. Nakatani should win easily.
Finally, six-time LDP incumbent Yamamoto Yuji (third district) should be reelected comfortably over DPJ challenger Nakayama Tomoi, running for the second time, and JCP candidate Murakami Nobuo. (Incidentally, Kochi’s third district is the most overrepresented district in Japan, with 212,376 voters, whose votes are worth 2.3 times the votes of the 489,437 voters of Chiba’s fourth district.)
The DPJ can pick up one seat in Kochi prefecture.
Once again using the d’Hondt method simulator, Yomiuri‘s latest polling data, and turnout data from 2005, it is possible for the DPJ to win four of six seats, leaving the remaining two for the LDP. If the Sankei poll mentioned above is correct, it is possible for the DPJ to win five to the LDP’s one, but it seems unlikely that the DPJ will score 56% of the vote.
Assuming the DPJ wins four seats in the PR voting, the DPJ can win nine seats in Shikoku, compared with ten seats for the LDP. Considering the DPJ’s lack of success in Shikoku in the past, trailing the LDP by only one seat would be a victory for the DPJ.