LDP’s poor showing in Ibaraki election cause for concern ahead of local elections

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Vote counting in Mito on Sunday night

The results of the latest Ibaraki prefectural assembly election do not bode well for the Liberal Democratic Party ahead of nationwide local elections next spring.

In the 62-seat prefectural assembly election held on Sunday, the LDP, the largest group in the assembly, fielded 45 candidates on its party tickets and won 35 seats, but lost l0 of its incumbent prefectural assembly members.

The LDP will be able to maintain the same level of strength in the assembly as before the election by adding conservative independents who won seats to the party ranks. But some have argued that headwinds acting against the administration of Prime Minister Fumio Kishida are what led to the poor showing for the party in the prefectural election, making both the LDP and its coalition partner Komeito concerned about how the nationwide local elections scheduled for next spring will turn out.

“As there are many who will join our party after the election, I’m sure we will be able to maintain roughly the same number of seats as before the election,” Hiroshi Moriyama, the chairperson of the LDP’s Election Strategy Committee, told reporters at the Prime Minister’s Office on Monday, emphasizing his view that the election results would have a limited impact on the Kishida administration.

Before the official start of the prefectural election campaign, the LDP occupied 44 seats. The loss of 10 LDP incumbent prefectural assembly members was a hit to the party, compared to the results of the previous election in which 34 of 38 candidates fielded by the LDP won seats. However, since many of the candidates who won seats as independents are in fact members of the LDP, the LDP will likely regain the power it held before the start of the campaign.

On the other hand, a senior member of the LDP’s prefectural chapter said, “It is tantamount to a major loss that 10 incumbent members running in the election as candidates officially endorsed by our party lost their seats.”

The reasons for incumbents’ losses include low approval ratings for the Kishida Cabinet and the replacement of former Justice Minister Yasuhiro Hanashi, who was elected from a lower house constituency in the prefecture, over a gaffe.

“As the prime minister has come out with tax increases, we had trouble putting up a fight in the election,” one LDP incumbent prefectural assembly member complained.

The prefectural election is being used by some as a barometer to gauge the direction of the upcoming nationwide local elections.

Going forward, LDP headquarters intends to focus efforts on securing public understanding of tax increases that are to coincide with a planned hike in defense spending.

Komeito achieved its goal of winning four seats for the four candidates on its party tickets.

Opposition parties trail the LDP significantly in number of seats held in the assembly. The Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan fielded one non-incumbent, aiming to increase its share, but in the end only won the two seats held by its incumbent candidates. The Japanese Communist Party lost a seat to go from two to one.

Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Innovation Party) earned one seat, securing its first seat in a prefectural assembly located north of Tokyo. The result of the Ibaraki prefectural assembly election was a boon for Ishin, which hopes to build a party that is competitive nationally. “This is a big step forward,” the party’s Secretary General Fumitake Fujita told reporters on Monday.