Election alert: double election in Osaka. As Japan gets ready for the unified local elections, Osaka sees prefecture Governor Matsui and Mayor Yoshimura vying to swap their positions. While the Osaka Ishin no Kai attempts to pursue its dream of turning Osaka into a ‘metropolis’, these local elections have a lot into play.
Join Timothy Langley and Michael Cucek as they discuss Osaka’s double elections.
Full Transcript below:
Tim: In a deft sleight of hand Osaka decides on the double election. Don’t forget to hit like, subscribe, and share. Hi, everyone. Welcome back to Tokyo on Fire. Today is March 19th 2019, I’m here with Michael Cucek again. Michael, welcome.
Michael: It’s great to be back.
Tim: There’s a lot going on isn’t there?
Michael: Yeah, so we really have to buckle down and get on to just one issue.
Tim: Right, Osaka a double election: what a clever thing to come up with!
Michael: Well, it’s really an amazing switch that they come up with. They take the rules, tempting, and bend them around and make them into their own advantage. But let’s talk about who the actors are and what the issues are.
Tim: Okay. One of the issues is that we’ve got a general election and then we’ve got an election for the assembly, and the two of those were kind of conflagulated: the prefectural governor and the city mayor decided to get their elections over and done with so that we can save some money.
Michael: Well, the whole thing is that we have, coming up in April, what are called the unified local elections. They’re not unified, they’re spread out all over the calendar, but enough of them are concentrated in this part of the year on a four-year cycle that they had…
Tim: Somewhat staggered.
Michael: Yeah, they have something to work with. And, one of the things that’s not in line with that are the main positions: the mayors of Osaka and the governorship of Osaka. The governor and the mayor, who are of the same party, who are basically interchangeable, have decided to make themselves interchangeable, so as to reset the calendar.
Tim: Right, it didn’t used to be like that, I mean, they used to be at loggerheads with one another, right?
Michael: Yeah. The system is that you’re supposed to elect the mayor, the governor and the Assemblies all at the same time in a single election. That doesn’t happen in many communities now, because of resignations, deaths, causing by-elections. All of this is usually discombobulated and that was the case in Osaka. But in Osaka, there is a political issue, namely that the party that represents Osaka, Osaka Ishin no Kai, is a regional party, has plans for Osaka Prefecture to convert it into a metropolitan district to get even with Tokyo, to become the other pole in the country. And a party had formed on this basis and on this idea and has done quite well, but has never been able to put his plan into place. In order to get that plan to work, they need the cooperation of some other party and that some other party for the longest time was the Komeito. The Komeito is the coalition ally of the LDP and the LDP wants to be in control of Osaka once again.
Tim: And Osaka also has the LDP right?
Michael: It has the LDP, and the Liberal Democratic Party wants to get back in business there, so it leaned on its coalition partner on national politics, the Komeito, to stop playing around with Ishin no Kai, “come back to us”. The Komeito said “you’re right, we should do that” and that was just recently. To the response of Ishin no Kai, saying “you betrayed us, you have led us down”, was this double election. The very bizarre sight of the mayor of Osaka and the governor of the prefecture both resigning and then pledging to run for each other’s seats.
Tim: Very clever though, isn’t?
Michael: It’s clever but you have to know all of the various rules and regulations involving the various kinds of things that can be done, but they’ve done it. Is that the really the issue, playing games with the electorate? That’s what the Komeito is saying; that’s what the LDP is saying; that’s what the Japan Communist Party is saying. It’s been every other party, except Ishin no Kai, that have all glommed onto the same songbook: “this is just for them, we are more responsible, we are better than this, we are the true Osakans; these are a bunch of parvenues with their plan that they’ve always had, and that’s the only thing they’ve got.” So that’s what the fight is going to be in Osaka in in just a couple of days. really. Because tomorrow will be officially the day that they resign and start running for each other’s places. You know, who cares, right? What is this all about? Is it about just changing the stationery in Osaka Prefecture so that it is Osaka Metropolitan District, just like it is here in Tokyo?
Tim: I vote for that.
Michael: Why would you vote for that?
Tim: I think it’s a great idea. Why not have a metropolis in Osaka that represents the entire prefecture, I mean, like Tokyo has that.
Michael: Yes, but the thing is what’s the difference? What’s the difference for the average Osakan citizen? That’s the question that the opposition parties, and in this case the opposition party…
Tim: It is political power, of course. They want political power, they want to absorb political power, so they can do things, so they can get things done their way.
Michael: And the question is what else do they want to do? What is it that Osaka Ishin no Kai is trying to do? Now, change Osaka city and prefecture into one giant metropolitan district just like Tokyo. Fine, once you’ve done that, what’s the point of any of it?
Tim: Well, probably it is just to crush the communist and Komeito and, I mean, Ishin no Kai. The whole dream ever since it was initiated by Hashimoto was “we need to have a political force here in Osaka and in Tokyo too”. It didn’t work so much in Tokyo.
Michael: Well, in this case what they’re thinking about is the fact that Osaka is declining and has been declining relative to Tokyo, for many decades. And it’s a process that they’d somehow like to stop. And that’s just the overarching issue here: can Osaka be a center? Now, Mr. Abe, based in Tokyo and grew up in Tokyo, because he went to schools in Tokyo, has been very accommodating toward this plan. He’s given the summit; the G20 summit is being hosted in Osaka. He pushed very hard for the World’s Fair in 2025 which will also be held in Osaka. Osaka is not forgotten by the forces in Tokyo, but nevertheless they have this party, which has a chip on its shoulder…
Tim: The Kansai region does!
Michael: The Kansai has a chip on its shoulder about not being as significant as Tokyo in that its population is declining for the most part; Tokyo continues to grow and, you know, year by year it’s just becoming more and more the center of the country. So, it’s regional pride and what does that mean? Now, in terms of the inter-politics of Japan however, and the things that can be done to revive regions, there’s another issue entirely. Now, Ishin no Kai wants to promote a special aura for Osaka, up to a special idea for Osaka, and the Komeito was cool with that, but the Komeito was cool also with Koike Yuriko fighting against the LDP in Tokyo, as well. And, Komeito has been the national actor; it’s the story here. Everyone talks about Ishin no Kai, its plans, its wishes, but what this is about is the realignment of Komeito and its solidifying, if not hardening, relationship with the LDP. The LDP lost control of the Komeito both in Osaka, where it made a relationship with Ishin no Kai, and in Tokyo, where it made the relationship with the local forces that first put Koike into power and then got him an anti-LDP majority in the assembly in Tokyo. Both of those powers are being challenged in April in the local elections. Koike’s party and people are going to be wiped out in Tokyo. And, in Osaka, and its local elections there’s a very good chance that Ishin no Kai will get seriously knocked around, as well. And then, we have, in a few months down the line, cooperation in the House of Councillors election. Again, where, go back a few years, Komeito playing footsie with regionalist powers, the outcome in the House of Councillors elections will be very different. But, now the LDP has just really been putting the pressure on the Komeito “come back to us, we have a national allience, we need it to be a regional alliance, as well.” And, that’s the piece that is moving around, you know, behind all of this.
Tim: Let’s get back to Osaka and the predominance of Ishin no Kai in the General Assembly, also in the prefectural governor’s race, there is a balance there. Probably, Ishin no Kai is a minority party, it wants to just, I mean, it’s not razor thin but they have to do extremely well if they’re gonna succeed in this venture ,right?
Michael: Okay, it seems to me almost guaranteed that despite the fact it looks highly opportunistic to switch positions and run for each other’s bizarre posts, I think that both of the governor, the current governor who’s running to be mayor, and the current mayor who’s gonna be running to be governor, I think they’re both shoes-in. I think they’re in, I think that there’s simply not enough interest in this kind of election to get people to come to the polls to vote against them, not so much vote for them, but vote against them: the deep status quo and they were really interchangeable, first of all. Matsui Ichiro, the head of the party, absolutely a nonentity: there’s nothing interesting you can say about him and any other member of the party. They’re there, basically. Now, fine, but what does that do for Osaka? I don’t know. You know, I don’t see where it helps Osaka any, but what they will have is those two in position for four straight years. They get to say “look, we reset the clock: we’ve realigned the local assembly elections and these two main posts and you will be around for four years. So, what are you gonna do you? You have to learn to live with us, you’re gonna have to live with our plan. I think that’s the cramdown that has happened here.
Tim: Well, I think probably just having a unity of forces at this point in time probably guarantees things coming down the path, for example integrated resorts, now they have a unified front where they can can generate this, and let’s say they do land an integrated resort in Osaka…
Michael: They’ll need the local communities and the local assemblies to be entirely on board.
Tim: That’s right. And, voters, although we’ve been here for four years, we’re gonna go for election again and how much better is your life now than it was four years ago?
Michael: Yeah, but the real key to the background of it has been Abe Shinzo and its relationship with the top leadership of Ishin no Kai, because Abe has been delicate, he has dinner all the time with Hashimoto Toru, who is no longer the head of the party but still the spiritual leader of the party, has dinner and lunches with Matsui all the time and he’s been doing that in order to keep their votes in the House of Councillors for that all-important constitutional revision vote, if it ever happens. That’s the game.
Tim: That’s right. That’s the proof is in the pudding for the House of Councillors election. All of this is prelude, right?
Michael: It’s all prelude for it if, and the thing is if you look at the national polls for Ishin no Kai, it looks disastrous, you know. They have 2.5% support overall of the country, but in Osaka in the district election there and for proportional seats they may get something that makes them a viable and important ally, assuming that Mr. Abe and the Komeito can get their acts together and get enough seats so then they have the two-thirds majorities in the House of Councillors. That’s the big background to all of this: the loss of a two-thirds majority by the forces that want to revise the Constitution. So, we have a multi-level game going on: local IR at the question of the integrated resorts on any casino, up middle-level prefectures, you know, the competition between Tokyo and Osaka, and then way in the background, revising the Constitution.
Tim: Right, and don’t forget about the cost in savings for stationery!
Michael: They’re gonna have to change all the stationery…
Tim: Double elections coming up soon in Osaka portrays what’s going to be happening for the House of Councillors elections and everything that happens in between. We’re going to continue to watch this, you should too!