Tokyo Metropolitan Assemby By-Elections: Distrust of Established Political Parties at Crisis Level

In the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly by-elections, the Liberal Democratic Party won two races and lost six and the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan won one race and lost two. It can be said that voters’ distrust of the established political parties, which was also an undercurrent in the Tokyo gubernatorial election, was made clear.

Many initially expected the Tokyo gubernatorial election to be effectively a ruling-opposition party showdown between incumbent Yuriko Koike and a former CDPJ member of the House of Councillors, but the result was a landslide victory for Koike. On the other hand, an independent newcomer, who made full use of social media, outpaced the CDPJ to take second place.

The Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly by-elections were contested in nine electoral districts, each with one vacancy. In the districts where the LDP and the CDPJ were defeated, victory went to candidates from the regional Tomin First no Kai (Tokyoites first group), another political group and independent candidates.

The LDP can be said to have suffered a crushing defeat, as it held five seats in eight of the electoral districts before the vacancies occurred. It is clear that the LDP has not been able to dispel the public’s distrust of the party, which has been heightened by the hidden funds scandal involving its political factions.

In the three by-elections for the House of Representatives in April, the LDP lost in all three constituencies, including constituencies where the LDP was unable to field candidates. Subsequent local elections have also been a struggle.

The LDP was continually criticized for the issue of “politics and money” during the last Diet session. Although the party succeeded in revising the Political Funds Control Law, it was ineffectual in coordinating among its members and also with coalition partner Komeito in the process of drafting the revision, leading to a sense of distrust.

At a convention of the LDP’s regional federation in Gunma Prefecture, several Diet members openly called for Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s resignation, arguing that the party’s head should take responsibility. These calls are likely to intensify in the run-up to the next lower house election.

On the other hand, the CDPJ tried to expose the LDP’s errors by pursuing the issue of “politics and money,” but it failed to gather support because it neglected policy debate.

It could be said that the failure of the established political parties to adequately meet the demands of the people resulted in the independent newcomer’s gathering more than 1.6 million votes in the Tokyo gubernatorial election.

The election was also notable for candidates who appeared to be publicity-seekers or pranksters. Although no such candidates were seen in the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly by-elections, it is possible that candidates banking on eccentricity will emerge in the upcoming House of Representatives and House of Councillors elections in various regions.

In fact, extraordinary things have already happened in national politics. In the last upper house election, a candidate who became popular by exposing people’s scandals on a video-sharing website was elected. After becoming an upper house member, he never appeared in the Diet and was expelled from the house.

If this situation is left unchecked, trust in politics will continue to wane. The ruling and opposition parties must review how they manage their parties and how they select and train candidates, and focus on improving their party’s character.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, July 9, 2024)