Shizuoka Gubernatorial Election: Poll Shows Severely Dysfunctional State of LDP

Even though it was a local election, the Liberal Democratic Party has been struck hard by harsh public opinion. Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has been driven into an even tougher position amid a situation in which he is not able to dispel the public’s distrust in politics.

Former Hamamatsu Mayor Yasutomo Suzuki, who was endorsed by the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan and the Democratic Party for the People, has won the Shizuoka gubernatorial election that was called following the resignation of Gov. Heita Kawakatsu. Suzuki defeated former Deputy Shizuoka Gov. Shinichi Omura, who was endorsed by the LDP.

Suzuki hails from Hamamatsu, a city in the western part of the prefecture and a populous electoral district, and was also supported by Suzuki Motor Corp., a major automobile manufacturer headquartered in Hamamatsu. Given the automaker’s strong influence in Shizuoka Prefecture politics, some LDP prefectural and city assembly members supported Suzuki.

The LDP’s prefectural chapter attempted to persuade such local members to change their mind by hinting at penalties for them, but the prefectural assembly members and others instead protested, and confusion spread within the prefectural chapter.

With support for the LDP still in the doldrums due to its hidden funds scandal involving party factions, it is no surprise that the LDP faced a harsh result because the party’s prefectural political circle was unable to conduct an election campaign in a united manner.

Neither Kishida nor LDP Secretary General Toshimitsu Motegi ever visited Shizuoka Prefecture to support Omura during the campaign period. The party’s mishandling of the election campaign — endorsing Omura but not publicly supporting him — can be another indication of the dysfunctional nature of the party’s headquarters.

In April, the LDP lost all three House of Representatives by-elections, including two losses by default. In last week’s mayoral election in Odawara, Kanagawa Prefecture, the incumbent, endorsed by the LDP and others, was defeated.

Under these circumstances, it is only natural that some within the LDP are saying that they cannot compete in the lower house election under Kishida’s leadership.

To dispel distrust in politics, revision of the Political Funds Control Law certainly must be realized during the current Diet session. It is important for the LDP, which does not hold a majority in the House of Councillors by itself, to take a sincere attitude in its approach to discussions with the opposition parties regarding the revision.

Kishida seems to believe that the Abe faction bears a heavy responsibility. However, the prime minister himself has repeatedly organized gatherings under the name of study sessions after assuming office. Doing so may be a violation of the ministerial code that stipulates refraining from holding large parties.

Unless Kishida disciplines himself and honestly faces the public, he will certainly not regain the support he has lost.

Whether to approve the start of the construction of the Linear Chuo Shinkansen maglev line within the prefecture was a major issue of the gubernatorial election. During the campaign, Suzuki had stated his support for the construction.

Kawakatsu did not approve the construction, citing the impact on environmental issues such as matters related to the waters of the Oi River. The former Shizuoka governor was even reluctant to communicate with Central Japan Railway Co. (JR Tokai), the main construction entity for the project.

It is Suzuki’s task as the new governor to hold dialogues with the relevant parties and resolve the confusion surrounding the maglev project.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, May 28, 2024)