Sunday, October 22, 2017

Tracking Koike's Ambition 21

Tracking Koike's Ambition, Day 21, 21 October 2017

End of the road. Campaigning for tomorrow's election finishes today, by law. It is customary for all the parties to have one final rally, one final throw of the dice, to convince voters to vote for them (or just get out and vote). Previously, last rallies have been timed such that I've managed to get around to look at all of them. Not today though.

And we are done
 There was time to get to Shinjuku to see the RikkenDs and, should they be running on time, get back to Ikebukuro where Koike's Kibo no To was to rally on one side of the station and the JCP, with Ikeuchi Saori, who has really impressed me with her campaign, was set to speak. 

Unfortunately, PM Abe was set to rally at Akihabara at the same time as the JCP and Kibo... decisions, decisions. 

Add to that, the rain. It hasn't really stopped. Umbrellas get in the way of pics at rallies...

 So I got to three rallies. The RikkenDs have really picked up some momentum since their rally I attended last Saturday at Kichijoji. There were thousands waiting, in the rain, at least an hour before leader Edano was due to appear. In the end, Edano was running a bit late and I had to leave to get up to Ikebukuro in time for the other two. But I did catch Kaieda, another Democrat heavyweight and female candidate Ido. The crowd was buoyant and supportive, in spite of the weather and ranged across demographics. The RikkenDs have tapped a vein here but how that converts to votes? We will have to see tomorrow. 

Gathering crowd
Brollies everywhere
Very different atmosphere at Ikebukuro. Twenty-five minutes before Koike was due to speak, the crowd was rather thin, maybe about 100-150 loyalists waiting (also in the rain). I ducked over the other side of the station where the JCP was gathering. The JCP and the RikkenDs (along with Shamin) are cooperating to an extent in order to consolidate the anti-LDP vote. It did have some positive effects last election but I can't help but speculate that the energy of the RikkenDs has perhaps   drained some support fro the momentum the JCP gained in the last election, to start to position itself as a key opposition party. Compared with Shinjuku, the crowd was far smaller. But committed supporters were committed. I also got to hear Ikeuchi Saori, and she energised the crowd (I also got some of the rainbow merch...for research purposes of course).

View from the back of the RikkenDs
Back to the other side and Koike had arrived in her trademark green raincoat, and to be fair, the crowd had swelled quite considerably, although it was still raining. And there were many more police controlling crowd movements. This part of Tokyo is Koike's base and she made that point in part of her speech. It is where she launched her run for the Governorship last year, and it will remain key to her support when she launches her next run for higher office. Her party's drop in support (via several opinion polls this week) will have been disappointing but Koike remains an inspiration to women, if audience response and vox pops are any indication. Her challenge now will be to keep the party going and building for the next election (which is all she could realistically do this time, given she launched the party the day before the election was called; although having said that, the contrast with the similarly new party over at the RikkenDs is quite remarkable). She should also focus on getting up some success in her role as Governor. She traded on her success as environment minister (not so defence minister) in her gubernatorial campaign, for her next run at PM, a strong track record in Tokyo might shade some of her weak points. 
Communist Party truck prepares

Communist Party members speaking

Protest sign

Shii, leader of the JCP

Koike's last dance
The weather forecast as backdrop, the sun will shine again soon

Ikeuchi's merch and leaflet

Koike's last crowd

Some media at Shinjuku

And in this evening's paper, a story showing just how many kms the leaders have clocked up in 12 days: some 70,000km between them. Abe 11833km, Edano 13280 and Koike just 8392 (kind of surprising). And mostly in the rain this week. Really, you have to admire the way these people, not just the leaders but also the candidates, the volunteers, the staff, the supporters, the curious on-lookers get out and about and engage in their democratic process. It is fascinating and a privilege to watch close up. 

And now, there is just the result to wait for. Back tomorrow with a wrap up. 

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Tracking Koike's Ambition 20

Tracking Koike's Ambition, Day 20, 20 October 2017

At some point, it will be worth lining up all of Koike's 'end of the day' videos she has been posting and gauging the tory of her campaign by the content and her expression. She appears to remain upbeat despite the election probably not going to plan, if the plan was to have Kibo in a commanding position from opposition. (I don't think the plan was for her to be PM this time, but rather to make giant strides towards that position for next time.)

Koike spent most of the day in Hokkaido, Japan's northernmost island. She returned to Tokyo in the evening to attend one more rally for one of her candidates. It is a punishing schedule which, as noted elsewhere, most leaders have been pursuing. 

Koike in the rain; the Emperor has a plan
An interesting choice of battleground for Koike. Kibo has just four candidates standing in Hokkaido which has twelve single member electorates. All four candidates are on the party list along with two others, making a total of six candidates for Hokkaido. The party has attained something of its desired parity here, with a fifty-fifty male-female split. 

In other news, the government announced its decision about the long-deliberated abdication plans of the Emperor, something which has the potential to play into the election campaign but which, by the end of the day, most parties seemed to have avoided. The Emperor is constitutionally, a symbol of the people, all power having been stripped from the position following World War Two. The current emperor is more inclined to a pacifist stance, and resolutely anti-war. Those on the right of the political spectrum, including the nationalist Nippon Kaigi (closely affiliated with the LDP and Koike is a member), would have the emperor restored to his (and only his, they oppose female succession) former prewar, god-like preeminence. 

The Emperor will step down on 31 March 2019 and the new reign of his son, the crown Prince, will commence on 1 April, along with a new era name. This coincides with the beginning of the financial, academic and work year (and has nothing to do with April Fools Day). 

The timing is significant and given that constitutional reform will be a big part of the next parliament, the emperor 'who does not have a political role, nor does he interfere with politics' will nonetheless represent the will of the people in the constitutional debate. 

Tomorrow is the last day of campaigning. Rain is forecast. And that doesn't augur well for the voter turnout...we made some forecasts in class today, a free lunch to the student who gets it right! Rain literally dampens peoples incentive to go and vote, particularly given it is not compulsory. The main parties will hold their final rallies in Tokyo, the LDP in Akihabara at 7.00pm (where PM Abe is due to appear), the RikkenDs at Shinjuku at 5.00pm, Kibo in Ikebukuro at 7.30 and the JCP on the other side of Ikebukuro station at 7.17pm...I have a bit of running around to do (and choices to make). 

Until tomorrow. 

Friday, October 20, 2017

Tracking Koike's ambition 17

Tracking Koike's ambition, Day 17, 17 October 2017

This is not weather for campaigning. It is cold. It is wet.  You have to give credit to everyone for their robust campaigning in these conditions.

The social media battle between Kibo and the RikkenDs continues to atract media interest. Kibo's twitter account is growing, now around 10,000 (Koike's personal account is at almost 500,000) while the RikkenDs are going all out to hit 200,000. The RikkenDs continue to use twitter's promoted tweet space as well.

Social media use is an inevitable element of modern psephology...

We talked yesterday about Renho, former leader, but there are two other former party leaders worth highlighting, partly for their longevity and for their commitment. Both are on the progressive side of politics having signed up in the Doi Takako era of the late 1980s-early 1990s when women's backlash against the old-LDP-boys-club was piqued. It also makes them both contemporaries of Koike and long-term parliamentarians.

Tsujimoto Kiyomi entered parliament in 1996 with the encouragement of Doi and has been subsequently re-elected six times. She is standing in the electorate of Osaka 10 as a candidate for the RikkenDs (having started with the Socialist Party--but party lineage is a project for another day, another post). Her two male opponents are both younger (she is 57, they are 46 and 48) one for the LDP, one for the conservative, Kibo-aligned Ishin, a Osaka-centric party meaning that Tsujimoto is the only progressive choice for voters.

The other woman on the hustings is upper house member of the Social Democratic Party, Fukushima Mizuho. The SDP is really all that now (barely) exists following the shakedown of parties in the 1990s. Nonetheless, Fukushima remains committed to the ideals and is a strong campaigner whose identification with the party has seen her in demand. She was first elected in the 1998 upper house election and since been re-elected four times, centred n Kanagawa, south of Tokyo. She is also a graduate of the Law Faculty of Tokyo Univeristy, long-considered the stepping stone for a prestigious career. She took over leadership of the party when Doi stepped down following electoral defeat in 2003. Big shoes to fill and much expectation. She remained in the role until 2013, a long term in the life of Japanese politics. She presently sits with a loose grouping of independents in the upper house, including the charismatic Yamamoto Taro. Another woman with vast experience who will no doubt have an important role to play in sorting through the non-LDP forces in the upper house in the wake of the eection.

Both Tsujimoto and Fukushima engage extensively on social media platforms. And as contemporaries (effectively) of Koike, both offer differentiation on the 'idea' of the female Japanese politician...a component of this research.

Tracking Koike's ambition 16

Tracking Koike's ambition, Day 16, 16 October 2017

Koike is continuing her (comprehensive) run around the country and has taken to uploading a short commentary on her day on various social media platforms. Koike exudes resilience and gumption in what is turning into a bit of a less than 'hopeful' campaign.

Todays Asahi paper highlights the the 'kanban speakers', poster politicians perhaps, the son of former PM Koizumi and a leading young parliamentarian in his own right for the LDP, Koike as the drawcard for Kibo (as I have witnessed on the hustings) and Renho for the Democrats which gives us a chance to talk about Renho, the former leader, who is supporting colleagues in Kibo, RikkenDs and Independents but who herself remains in Minshinto in the upper house. 

So this is a little bit complicated. In their haste to run on the promise of Kibo, or run as independents or reform as the new RikkenDs, the lower house parliamentary wing appeared to have left their upper house brothers and sisters in their wake. The upper house parliamentary wing hasn't, at the time of writing, dissolved and become part of the Kibo-Rikken-indy split. There are 49 Minshinto Councillors, Renho is one of 12 women in the upper house group.

As a result, Renho, who has always been a good campaigner, has been out and about supporting a number of lower house colleagues regardless of where they affiliated--Kibo, RikkenDs or independent. For her, it was a case of supporting colleagues first and foremost. Today, on the husting in Yokohama with Edano, she was critical of Maehara and his (failed) plan to take Minshinto members across to Kibo ( 16 October 2017). (There is the matter of who owns/controls the party funds but that shall be for another post-election discussion.)

As with most new party leaders, Renho arrived at the post with much expectation. First elected in 2004 (I have been following her career closely too), she came to politics via a career as a model and tv appearances. Born in Tokyo in 1967 to a Japanese mother and a Taiwanese father she went to university and spent some time studying in Beijing. She has been a stand out in the various iterations of the Democrats over the years and it was only a matter of time before she became leader.

Unfortunately for Renho, the so-called 'birther' movement which emerged in the US during President Obama's term in office came to affect her role with constant questions asked about her citizenship status (similar to the s. 44 issues in Australia recently) only it is neither a constitutional nor legislative issue. For Renho too, like most children born into similar situations, Japanese citizenship was only recognised if the father was Japanese. The laws were changed in 1984 but a cloud remained around her status. That distraction and a poor showing in the Tokyo Metropolitan elections (the same election Koike's new political grouping smashed allcomers, which in turn, spurred the hurried entry into this current election) saw her take responsibility and tender her resignation, under a year into her term.

She was eventually replaced by Maehara in a run off for the leadership and the rest, they say, is history. Although Renho personally sat over towards the LDP on some key political issues, (see for example, the Asahi/Todai joint survey research) I doubt she would have taken Maehara's approach had she remained leader but such are the fun of couter-factuals...

Renho secured her Tokyo electorate in a strong showing during last year's upper house election and is likely to stay in politics for the near future. She would be a loss if she left. The upper house Dems will need her experience to see them through their next stage, post-election, and what is to become of them.

Tracking Koike's Ambition 19

Tracking Koike's ambition, Day 19, 19 October 2017

Koike explains herself
Are the recriminations already beginning behind the scenes? Will Koike be blamed for 'things not going as planned'? Mid-afternoon today, Koike responded to questions about her use of haijo (排除) early on in the party mergers to imply she would exclude members of the old Dems who didn't fit with her plan or sign her largely conservative policy platform. It does have a strong connotation of exclusion or expulsion in Japanese, even when she tried to finesse the verb register to sound more polite about it (a brief linguistic nerd moment, forgive me) it came across as quite harsh...understandably offending some member of the Dems. 

Koike explained that while it might have a harsh connotation that wasn't her intention, rather she used it as a way to convey a sense of close agreement on ideals, platforms and policies for the party. (Asahi Shimbun, online, 19 October 2017, 3.00pm) 

Japan's tomorrow, let us decide
It might end up being the moment people point to in searching for reasons for not achieving the previously lofty ambitions in the short term. In the long term however, as has been mentioned, it has succeeded in sorting out the policy mish-mash that was the old Dems. This election might serve as a platform for better opposition outcomes in the next election (not due now until 2021 but who knows...). 

And while we talk about the use of social media by the parties, it is also worth mentioning  the efforts the bureaucrats are going to to get the voting message out. Certainly, my timeline here in Tokyo is replete with 'promoted tweets' by the Tokyo Election Committee (kind of equivalent to our Electoral Commissions in Australia). quite regularly. And today on the train to work I noticed that the carriage I was on was full of ads to remind people to vote, 'to decide on Japan's tomorrow'. Makes sense, quite a few students travel on that train. 

Tonight, Koike posted another video reflecting on the day but telling the story also about some school children she met who expressed interest in politics and that, for her, to encourage the next generation in that way, was very satisfying...looking for gems in the face of defeat? She's not giving up though, the national tour continues tomorrow.

Three days left. Media outlets predicting a comfortable LDP win. What has the 'Hope' plan meant? 

Tracking Koike's Ambition 18

Tracking Koike's ambition, Day 18, 18 October 2017

It must be the worst weather to be campaigning. Apart from a brief moment today, the weather has been frankly, atrocious. Raining mostly, but also cold. Part of me can't help but take my hat off to the leaders as they make their way around the country in this weather. 

A brief moment in the sun
Today Koike was due to campaign just a few stations down the line from my area; alas, in the other direction and I had classes to attend. During the morning, she targeted Saitama, including the 4th district, where Toyota is standing as an independent, as mentioned earlier this week. Koike's schedule today included some governor duties as well and then in the evening, back out in the rain and a little further afield to Gunma and Tochigi. 

On the party's twitter account, she has taken to posting a short video, about a minute or so, reporting on the day's events and the outlook for tomorrow. The twitter account is slowly gathering a following, it is up to about 12,000 now, a long way behind the RikkenDs but steadily improving. 

The use of social media in this election is certainly worth reviewing. I suspect that usage reflects demographics in much the same way we would expect in Australia. There is an additional Japanese platform, Line, very popular with younger people but I haven't ventured there yet. 

The media being the media, is moving into that self-reflection mode already, bemoaning the lack of policy debate and a focus on the machinations of the opposition parties, particularly the tussle between Koike and Edano, Kibo and the RikkenDs. Abe is making quite something of all this, making claims about his government's  economic achievements without a lot of scrutiny. It is also interesting to watch LDP candidates emphasise the 'North Korean problem' as, effectively, a way to disguise a much-needed constitutional debate. By citing the North Korean problem, if he wins, Abe can claim he had a mandate on security and move on Constitutional revision. 

During this week, I have been at liberty to raise the election with students I teach, it is the political science department after all, and asking them their views. For many of the students it will be their third opportunity to vote since the voting age was reduced to 18 (it was 20 previously). It seems that for the small sample of 20 year olds I teach, with a few exceptions, the significance and likelihood of constitutional revision is not causing much concern among this cohort. 

It will be interesting to see their reactions to the result next week. 

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Tracking Koike's Ambition 13

Tracking Koike's ambition, Day 13, 13 October 2017

Candiates are facing up to the only full weekend of campaigning tomorrow and Sunday. Next Saturday will be the last day of campaigning before the election on Sunday 22 October. What can Koike do by then to boost the support and more significantly, turn that crowd support into actual votes. Voter mobilisation, with non-compulsory voting, requires a much bigger effort for parties other than the LDP and Komeito. (LDP's base is pretty rusted on and Komeito draws largely from a loyalist affiliation with the Soka Gakkai--a quasi-Buddhist 'new' religion.) 

Koike's video, challenging the old (LDP) politics
Today's blog highlight is a candidate who has come into view through some savvy social media use, JCP candidate and incumbent (on the party list) Ikeuchi Saori, 35. She is one of three candidates in Tokyo 12 where her opponents are men, one independent and one, the incumbent Ota, of the Komeito. 

She is a strong campaigner against 'hate speech' as it is called here in Japan, fights for 'comfort women' and is a strong advocate for LGBQTI rights. Her campaign is characterised by rainbow colours.

Part of the aim of my research project is to in fact, demonstrate the diversity of women in politics in Japan. Ikeuchi is a young committed activist having joined the JCP at age 21. She is a graduate of Chuo University. She won her seat in 2014 on her third attempt having stood in both the 2009 and 2012 elections. Her political life has been nurtured as a member of the JCP youth divisions. She is a savvy user of social media including twitter, facebook and youtube. On her blog, she records her parliamentary actions including speeches and committee work and examples of her engaging with the community. 

In an era when criticism of young people points to their apathy and inaction, Ikeuchi is a stand out in the crowd. The point to watch this time is whether or not the new Rikken Ds will draw votes from the Communists on the party list and make it harder for candidates like Ikeuchi to hold her position. The Rikken Ds and JCP are going to have to consider some serious consolidation talks after this election if there is to be a strong opposition and two party system in Japan, post LDP-Abe.

Off on the hustings tomorrow.