LDP Fared Well But Laxity in Party Caused Failures in Candidate Coordination

While the Liberal Democratic Party had a good showing overall, the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan failed to make its presence felt. The results of Sunday’s elections are a true reflection of the current national political situation.

The first half of the unified local elections, including polls for nine governors and six mayors of ordinance-designated large cities as well as elections for 41 prefectural assemblies, were held Sunday. The second half of the elections, including those of mayors for smaller cities and municipal assemblies, will be held on April 23.

In Hokkaido, the only gubernatorial election to have featured a direct confrontation between the ruling and opposition camps, the incumbent recommended by the LDP and its coalition partner Komeito was reelected, defeating a former CDPJ House of Representatives member supported by the four opposition parties of the CDPJ, the Japanese Communist Party, Democratic Party for the People and Social Democratic Party.

Generally, a local government chief seeking a second term is perceived as being in the process of fulfilling his or her campaign promises, and thus has an electoral advantage. Nevertheless, Hokkaido is a region with a strong labor union base. Four years ago, the CDPJ was defeated in another ruling-opposition battle. A series of defeats in its strongholds is certainly a blow to the CDPJ.

Also of interest were the gubernatorial elections where conservative elements were divided, in Tokushima and Nara prefectures.

In Tokushima, where there was a three-way battle among LDP-linked candidates, a former LDP lower house lawmaker won. Criticism of the incumbent, who was seeking his sixth term, for running too many times likely resonated.

In Nara, where the LDP prefectural chapter was split in its support between the incumbent and a candidate who had never held the post, the candidate from Nippon Ishin (Japan Innovation Party) won for the first time, taking advantage of the division among conservative supporters. The power struggle within the LDP resulted in failure for both candidates.

The conservative split caused by internal disputes seems to indicate a laxity within the LDP amid the party’s continuing dominance at the national political level.

The party headquarters, which failed to get the situation under control, should be blamed as well. The ability of the LDP executive to unify the party in the future is being called into question.

Unless the LDP executive takes control of the party and leads the coordination of candidates, including those in national elections, the party may suffer painful repercussions. The LDP must maintain a sense of urgency.

In the Oita gubernatorial election, an LDP-endorsed candidate won the office for the first time, defeating a former House of Councillors lawmaker who was supported by the local organizations of the JCP and the SDP. In the Kanagawa, Fukui, Tottori and Shimane gubernatorial elections, the incumbents supported by both ruling and opposition parties were reelected.

The CDPJ failed to create a showdown between the ruling and opposition camps in most of the elections for local government heads, with the notable exception of Hokkaido. The largest opposition party’s failure to offer voters an alternative is certainly an indication of its lack of strength.

In Osaka, regional party Osaka Ishin won the dual elections for governor and mayor. The ruling and opposition parties, each rallying support behind a banner against Osaka Ishin, fielded candidates in an attempt to break Osaka Ishin’s foundation, but the results showed the strength of the party in the Kansai region.

The Ishin parties see the latest unified local election results as a springboard to gain strength nationwide. Including the second leg of the unified local elections, the focus will be on whether they can take the leap forward outside the Kansai region.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, April 10, 2023)