LDP seen facing tough battles in Hokkaido, Osaka, Okinawa

REUTERS/Issei Kato/File Photo
An election campaign staff member holds leaflets of Japan’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party with cover photos of Japan’s Prime Minister and the party’s president Fumio Kishida, as he distributes these to voters during an election campaign on the first day of campaigning for the upcoming lower house election, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, in Tokyo, Japan October 19, 2021.

The Liberal Democratic Party is facing particularly tough battles in the prefectures of Hokkaido, Osaka and Okinawa, according to a Yomiuri Shimbun survey gauging voter sentiment in the final stages of the House of Representatives election campaign.

The largest opposition party, the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, has a strong foothold in Hokkaido, while Osaka Prefecture is the base of Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Innovation Party). In Okinawa Prefecture, opposition parties have been supported by All Okinawa, a local political force that includes both conservatives and reformists and has significant clout in political affairs in the prefecture.

According to the survey, the LDP holds the upper hand in only two of Hokkaido’s 12 constituencies. In contrast, the CDPJ, which has fielded candidates in each of the 12 constituencies, appears to have the advantage in seven of them while running neck and neck with LDP candidates in three others.

Labor unions representing government workers have a strong influence in Hokkaido, where there has been a tradition of strong support for the now-defunct Democratic Party of Japan and the Social Democratic Party. In the 2017 lower house election, opposition votes were divided among multiple candidates.

As a result, the CDPJ secured only four seats in Hokkaido, while the LDP won six. In the upcoming election, however, five opposition parties have united to support a single candidate in some constituencies, thus gaining the upper hand through the final stages of the election.

“How well we perform in Hokkaido will be directly linked to how well we perform overall,” a senior CDPJ member said.

In Osaka, with a total of 19 constituencies, Ishin is seen as having an advantage in 11 of the 15 constituencies in which it has fielded candidates. Ishin Secretary General Nobuyuki Baba, who is running in Osaka Constituency No. 17, and other party members appear to have stable positions, while tight races are expected in the remaining four constituencies. The party is likely to gain significantly more seats than in the previous election, in which it won three seats.

Ishin leader Ichiro Matsui, who built a good relationship with former Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, has been increasingly critical of the administration of Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, saying that the current administration “is standing on the side of people with established interests.”

The three ruling coalition candidates who do seem to hold the upper hand in Osaka constituencies are all Komeito candidates. There is a possibility that all of the LDP candidates in the prefecture will fail to win.

In Okinawa, opposition candidates are seen leading LDP candidates in three of the prefecture’s four constituencies. Even in the No. 4 constituency, which has a relatively large conservative base, Toru Kinjo of the CDPJ and Kosaburo Nishime of the LDP, who currently serves as state minister in charge of Okinawa and northern territories affairs, face a close race, according to the survey.