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Running for Office in Japan

thomas

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Read Debito's report on how to run for office in Japan. His wife, Ayako Sugawara, is one of the candidates for the town council office in their hometown Nanporo (second post).

An interesting insight into Japan's communal politics. :)

- Posted on behalf of Debito -


REPORT: POLITICS IN JAPANON RUNNING FOR OFFICE, PART ONE
By Arudou Debito, April 23, 2003
(freely forwardable)

Long-time readers of my essays might remember one I wrote in 1999, about an
election deciding the fate of my hometown, Nanporo, Hokkaido.
(Arudou Debito/Dave Aldwinckle's Page for Social Issues in Japan) The main issue
was whether the 24-year incumbent mayor would lead the town irretrievably
into debt by building a ludicrous second Dai-San Sector golf course
(www.debito.org: Case Study of Japan's Dai-san Sector as engine of corruption), or if the former vice-mayor would steer
things into a different (and hopefully fiscally-prudent) direction. After
my friends and I organized a landmark public forum that ultimately exposed
the mayor as corrupt, our side won the election and the golf course was
halted. It was a pretty amazing show of "people power", even in Japan.

Now it's election time again. Little did I know that this time one of the
candidates for the Town Council (Chougikai) would be my wife. I am learning
firsthand the nuts and bolts of electioneering, and how Japanese election
laws, in the name of fairness, actually end up hindering "people power"--by
keeping candidates safe from closer public scrutiny.

//////////////////////////////////////////////
NANPORO ELECTIONS 2003 PART ONE
C'MON CANDIDATES, WHAT DO YOU REALLY THINK?
SORRY, DEMANDING THAT GOES AGAINST JAPANESE ELECTION LAWS.

About three weeks ago, one of my townie friends, Mr Suzuki, contacted me
over a matter of some import. We had had close ties over the past four
years, organizing Nanporo "Town Meetings" (see above elections link), albeit
with decreasing frequency given my busyness with the Otaru Onsen lawsuit
(www.debito.org: THE OTARU LAWSUIT INFORMATION SITE, by the Plaintiffs) and publishing a book on it.
(www.debito.org: Debito Arudou/Dave Aldwinckle's Publications). Mr Suzuki, who suddenly decided
to run for mayor, suggested we also get somebody from our part of Nanporo,
Minami Machi, to run for a council seat. The time was nigh to steer the
town in a different direction again.

Background on the electorate: Nanporo, population around 9500 souls, was
once Hokkaido's fastest-growing town. The former mayor, on a ruse to
increase the town tax base, lured urban families here with cheap government
loans for big houses on large parcels of land. Ten years of this produced a
new electorate, split between new bed-towners (40%), farmers (30%), and
generational geriatric businessmen (40%). Nanporo's town council
representation, however, remained static. Out of 16 seats, only one has up
to now been a bed-towner--the rest being farmers (supplementing their
decreasing income with a 3,000,000 yen annual councillor salary) and local
businessmen (ditto). Nobody seemed concerned that they had brought us all
here, saddled us with some of the highest public service fees in Japan, yet
reneged on promises to provide better secondary education (Nanporo's senior
high school is one of the worst in Hokkaido; most bed-towners export their
teenage kids) and a proper supermarket (even though fertile Nanporo
specializes in cabbage, onions, and rice, Japan's byzantine distribution
system means our local Noukyou shopping shack has few fresh veggies, let
alone meat and fish; and with no nearby competition, they even charge
extortionate prices). Result: apathy amidst the bed-towners, not to
mention a high divorce and house-turnover rate. Nanporo's population has
been slowly dropping due to an aging population and few new entrants (nobody
thinks the government house loan agency is solvent without Nanporo town
subsidies). The new mayor, although not a bad person, has turned out to be
a bureaucrat with few novel or creative solutions. So this time the
bed-towners decided to become candidates--six out of eighteen, running for
fourteen seats this time. My wife, Sugawara Ayako, is one of them.

One question that may occur to the reader is: Why didn't I run? I am a
Japanese citizen, after all. Simple answer: I decided against it because I
already have enough to do, and can't read Japanese fast enough yet to be an
effective public servant. Anyway, Ayako herself is plenty noteworthy. At
44, she is by far the youngest candidate (the other seventeen are all well
into their second half-century), and one of only two women. She is also the
only one clearly campaigning under issues of education, consumer choice, and
increased overseas ties (she has even suggested a sister-city relationship
with my hometown in Central New York, for educational exchanges). She is
antipathetic to the perfunctory rural "bread-and-circuses" slogans (elderly
care, preferential treatment for farming, and having the town stand alone
financially in an era where indebted Japanese ghost towns are
conglomerating). In fact, as far as we can see from all of the campaign
pamphlets we received from rivals in the mail, only Ayako (who advertises
herself as Nanporo's Joan of Arc. Seriously) has any substance to her
public promises. (Most just have mug shots of candidates clenching fists
and promising to fight for a brighter tomorrow; one guy even got all chummy,
saying his favorite food was ramen, his favorite word "yume" (dream). Ayuh,
my kinda guy.)

Since the original bed-towner councillor is retiring his seat, we thought
Ayako has a pretty good chance of getting in--by appealing to the housewife
vote (especially since the other woman is a member of the Japanese Communist
Party, and a well-known do-nothing incumbent). There is also, for better or
worse, the fact that she is known for being married to me, a kinda
well-known do-everything. So she threw her hat into the ring.

//////////////////////////////////////////////
TRYING TO RAISE SOME ISSUES, ANY ISSUES

I decided to stay as much in the background as possible during her campaign.
If she was to be elected, I wanted it to be on her strengths, her merits,
and her proposals, so that with the force of her convictions and a popular
mandate she could be an effective councillor without any crutches. My job
instead was to create a venue where the electorate could see that somebody
out there has a real agenda for real problems. Not just homilies about
ramen dreams. So like the one which contributed to the mayoral upset four
years ago, I organized a forum where all the candidates could get together,
parade a platform, and be asked questions from the floor.

I drew up pretty much the same forum proposal I did in 1999--invite all
candidates, have them give a five-minute policy statement, then allow
questions from the audience by paper or microphone. All told, it would be
two hours of good, honest communication between elector and elected. Fora
at the local level are highly unusual in Japan, since regular campaigning as
I said avoids substance: i.e. going around in sound trucks screaming
"yoroshiku" (please treat me favorably) and "ganbarimasu" (I'll do my best)
all day, making platitudinous speeches outside a few public areas, getting
permission to walk into companies and shake hands with everyone (apathetics
are suckers for these two-handed cupped-handshakes, especially when people
have nothing else to go on except "kizuna" (interpersonal connection)), and
rely on their party machines to contact people and secure vocal promises of
five to ten votes each (one of my eccentric uncles called my wife four years
ago to get me to vote LDP, even though I didn't have Japanese citizenship
yet). I thought that one of the larger successes of American democracy (New
England Town Meetings) might help shake voters out of their apathy.

Unfortunately, I didn't reckon on the interventions of Nanporo's Electoral
Steering Committee (Nanporo-chou Senkyo Kanri Iinkai, "Senkan" for short)
and its arcane rules.

The first thing the town bureaucrats at the Senkan said was, "Why are you
trying to hold this forum on the day before the election, on Saturday, April
26?"

Me: "Because by then five days will have elapsed since the 'offical
campaign period' started." (Yes, it's that short.) "We will have at least
had a chance to hear what candidates have said so far and be able to ask
more informed questions."

Senkan: "Why not do it before the election period? You did so four years
ago."

Me: "Because I learned my lesson. Four years ago, candidates were able to
weasel out of it. Since they were not yet 'officially confirmed'
candidates, they technically could not talk about their policies outside of
the 'official campaign period' (senkyo kikan). Thus attending this forum
would allegedly void their candidacy. I want to plug those loopholes this
time around."

Senkan: "But you cannot sponsor the forum."

Me: "Why not? As Chair of our organization, the 'Chihou Bunken Forum', I
did so four years ago."

Senkan: "Yes, but your wife is running for office this time. Nobody,
especially not us at the Senkan, will believe that this forum is impartial."

Me: "I am not participating in her campaign."

Senkan: "Doesn't matter. 'Shakai tsuunen' (social convention) dictates
that you will be biased. And don't ask your Vice-Chair, Mr Suzuki, to chair
the forum either. He's running for mayor. Find a neutral person."

I did. The abdicating bed-town councillor. Senkan: "We'll accept him
because he's a private citizen again. But you should consider moving the
date to before the election period."

Me: "Why?"

Senkan: "Because under Electoral Law 164, Clause 3," he thumbed through a
six-centimeter-thick book, "only political parties and Individual Candidate
Support Groups can sponsor fora then." (okonau kojin enzetsukai, seitou
enzetsukai oyobi seitou tou enzetsuzai o nozoku hoka, ikanaru meigi o
motsute suru o towazu, kaisai suru koto ga dekinai)

Me: "You mean private citizens can't?"

Senkan: "No, they can't."

Me: "So how can we ask our candidates any questions?"

Senkan: "You can go to each one of their support group meetings."

Me: "What, all eighteen of them, plus two mayoral candidates? You just try
to raise a question as they preach to the converted. And then you can't get
them to debate with each other because they'll never be in the same room.
That's unwieldy."

Senkan: "You could get them to do a co-sponsored support group (kyoudou
enzetsukai). That would be legal."

Me: "And equally unwieldy. The Communist Party agreeing to sponsor with
Koumeitou? As if."

Senkan: "Well, if the candidates themselves would try to organize a forum..."

Me: "That's a ramen dream. They aren't about to submit themselves to
increased scrutiny, or participate in a debate they might lose in public if
they don't have to. I'm sure they'd rather stick to sound-truck
platitudes."

Senkan: "So why don't you invite the non-party candidates? There are still
fifteen councillors and both mayoral candidates left over."

Me: "Okay, I'll do that. But I still want to hold it on the eve of the
election."

Senkan: "Fine. But under electoral laws, during this time period you
cannot use regular networks, such as newspaper fold-ins
(orikomi--advertisements tucked in as separate pieces of paper) or
public-sector channels, for political purposes. Only the post office, at
your own expense." Which would be, after printing up all the flyers and
addressing all the envelopes, about 80 yen times 3500 households...

Me: "Okay, I give up. I'll arrange the forum for the weekend before the
election period starts. April 20th okay? Then I can advertise through the
newspaper fold-ins, right?" Right.

So I got to work. I faxed every single candidate, telling them the contents
and goals of the forum. It was to be completely neutral, with equal time
for stumping, a neutral emcee, with audience questions on issues to be
directed at all attendees. Our local Senkan even got the approval from
Hokkaido Senkan Headquarters. Things looked set to go.

However, this time, our local Hokkaido newspaper distributor decided to blow
a whistle.

Distributor: "You want this forum announcement to be a newspaper fold-in?
No can do."

Me: "And why not?"

Distributor: "Because newspaper regulations dictate that fold-ins cannot be
used for 'political and religious affairs, or social issues'" I asked for
written proof of this, which he produced. "You want to use this network,
the forum has to be cleared by the Senkan."

Me: "It has been."

Distributor: "Then I want it cleared with Hokkaido Shinbun's Sales
Department HQ. My company has to take the heat for any complaints that come
from the public, and I want to be sure..."

Me: "Look, I think you're being overly anal. Not one week ago, when I
tried to advertise my book 'JAPANESE ONLY--The Otaru Bathhouse Refusals and
Racial Discrimination' as a Nanporo fold-in, you tried to refuse it because
you took it upon yourself to editorialize, deeming the book's very title 'a
social issue'. One call on my part to your precious Hokkaido Shinbun Sales
Department HQ revealed that my book announcement was to be treated as a mere
advertisement of a product, not a call to action or a rally to a political
cause. Now kindly remember who the customer is here and take my goddamn
fold-in money."

Distributor: "But on the announcement, you've listed the names of the
candidates who have agreed to attend. Are you sure the Senkan cleared
that?"

Oh for crying out loud, what could possibly be wrong with listing attendees?

Senkan: "Under electoral laws, you are not allowed to bias the public
against any candidate. What would the public think if only some people were
listed as attendees? Would they not think badly of those who decided not to
attend?"

Me: "Look, do you guys spend late nights dreaming up ways to interfere with
freedom of speech and normal democratic processes? If the candidates decide
not to attend, that should be said candidate's responsibility, not ours.
They refuse on their own recognizance. If they haven't the guts to attend,
that should be known about."

Senkan: "But that could inadvertantly create a bias."

Me: "So could a gaffe from one of them during a debate. But are we to
suspend all debate because debators might make people think ill of them, due
to their own choices?"

My Senkan man finally laughed. "C'mon, make it easy on yourself. Just
don't put any names on the forum flyer."

Me: "I think people have the right to know who will be attending. Nobody
will attend if they don't think any candidates will show. Get real."

Senkan: "Okay, I'll pass this by the Senkan HQ again..."

Me: "Sorry, there's no time for that. Thanks to the shift in the date,
there are only three days until the forum. I have to get this to the
newspaper now for the forum announcement to appear the day before. Up to
now I think I've been thoroughly cooperative with you. Now tell me what
happens if I run this announcement as is."

Senkan: "Well, that means the forum goes on without Senkan approval."

Me: "Oh. Will I be arrested?"

Senkan: "Er, no. Just frowned at. If you run a biased forum on the day,
however, we may have to disqualify the candidates."

Me: "But as things stand now, nobody can be disqualified or arrested,
pending the neutral outcome of the forum. Right?"

Senkan: "That's right. I will be attending and watching."

And that's how a week of negotiations wrought a forum. We had a full house
(85 attendees, mostly elderly farmers), and four councillor candidates (no
incumbents, all bed-towners trying to get some exposure) including my wife
having their say. Good news was that both mayoral candidates (the incumbent
mayor, seeing the names of attendees, changed his mind and showed up) were
there, and both gave good accounts of themselves with practical ideas.
Everyone I talked to was happy the forum happened; even my Senkan man deemed
it suitably neutral. It was another precedent set, for the next turn of the
electoral cycle.

//////////////////////////////////////////////
CONCLUSIONS

But the point about Japan's odd democratic processes still stands. As in
all election systems, candidates need only care about securing a sufficient
number of votes from their loyalists. Which means that unless called upon
to comment on larger issues, all they have to do is play it safe. Problem
is that Japan's electoral rules effectively silence the issue-raisers--by
discouraging the public from treating them like candidates before the
"official election period", or by making it near impossible to get them
debating or answering questions in public during it. Without the ability to
create independent public fora, communication winds up being all top-down
and heavily-controlled.

The negative consequences of this short-circuited democracy are not too
difficult to find. Aside from voter apathy through a sense of futility,
abuses occur, even in a place as small Nanporo. For example, the largest
vote-getter last election, the Koumeitou rep (who literally has a religious
following, thanks to the sponsoring Souka Gakkai demanding blind
favoritism), seems oblivious to our educational problems. Instead of trying
to improve the high school, it turns out last month during town council
proceedings he tried to get some teachers fired from the local
(high-quality) grade school--simply because they would not stand when the
controversial Japanese national anthem was played. Misguided ideology like
that should be more known about: Should you vote for such a nitwit? It
would have been nice if that matter of public record could have been raised
in the media. Or a public forum, ahem.

But then again, I guess that's a bias. Under Japanese electoral law, any
potential opinion at all qualifies as a bias. So try to remain apathetic
when organizing people power in Japan.
 
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thomas

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//////////////////////////////////////////////
1) TAKE YOUR MARKS
2) TAKING OFF
3) ELECTION RESULTS (including other international candidates in Japan)
4) CONCLUSIONS AND LESSONS
//////////////////////////////////////////////

TAKE YOUR MARKS

My wife and I arrived at the Nanporo town hall on Tuesday, April 22, at 7:55
AM, taking our seat amidst other candidates for a briefing from the
Electoral Administrative Committee (Senkan). Topic: How to wage a clean
and fair fight.

Senkan: "The election period starts from 8:30 AM today, Tuesday, April 22,
and will end at 8PM on Saturday, April 28. For those five days, you may
campaign on your sound trucks between 8AM and 8PM, and make phone calls
until midnight. You may, however, campaign only within a short distance of
your sound truck, or anywhere you have the 'campaign permission banner' you
will receive momentarily. You will also receive a fixed number of official
campaign armbands (wanshou) for your campaigners to wear, which will put a
cap on the number of people on your team. You also have a cap on the amount
of money you may spend on this campaign--about 1 million yen...", plus
another fifteen minutes of directives which need not be reproduced here.

"In a few moments, we will start the lottery to assign registration numbers.
This will determine where you put up your campaign posters on the
billboards." Residents of Japan will know well what this means: whenever
there are elections, out of thin air pop up segmented plywood noticeboards
in various public places. The mugs gallery. Your number (up to twenty in
Nanporo) determines in which quadrant where your poster gets thumbtacked.
To avoid possible psychological advantages from the tyranny of numerology,
each billboard has numbers assigned to quadrants at random. "This is the
only public place you can stick your posters, other than your supporters'
private homes, your campaign banner area, or your campaign HQ (renraku
jimusho)." We started the lottery. "You will choose a chopstick from this
box with a number affixed to the bottom. The person who arrived here and
registered on the blackboard earliest will get first pick, okay? Okay."
Out of eighteen council candidates, we had arrived fifteenth, but picked
number eleven. "Two ones are better than one," we soon numerologized. We
were out the door by 8:45 AM as engines warmed up outside.

The professional candidates knew what they were doing. Within minutes, all
sound trucks waiting outside for the past hour (total seventeen, including
the two mayoral candidates) were loaded with white-gloved supporters in
fluorescent jackets. Other affiliated cars sped off to put posters up (and
most efficiently--by the time I returned to Nanporo from work for lunch that
day, every single candidate was thumbtacked). We were all equally off and
running.

========================================

For those who have never had the joy of seeing a Japanese election sound
truck in action, a brief description: It is usually a van that seats in the
back four people (allowing them to lean outside the windows all day in what
must be an illegal, not to mention excruciating, practice), who flail
windswept witches-broom of white gloves all day. Arms and legs quickly
become desensitized to cold, wind, and rain. Atop the van like a Malaysian
fez is a box, bearing the candidate's name with perhaps a slogan or a photo,
speakers emerging from every corner of it (the deluxe fezzes have a place
for people to stand and shout). In the front of the van sits the driver, of
course, with the candidate riding shotgun. Candidates are unmistakable,
wearing a dark suit (if male) or creamy dress (if female), complemented by a
wide white laminated tasuki (sash) bearing his or her name. To complete the
visuals are the aural stimuli: Two or three mikes inside the van are
readied for the candidate and two hog-callers, shouting out slogans (name,
thanks, and apolitical buzzwords showing their spirit) a few hundred
thousand times for twelve hours. Wending their way along residential areas
and busy avenues, they are usually escorted front and back by two more cars
full of gloved and luminescent supporters. Their flurry of words can be
heard on country roads well over a kilometer away, and their doppler effect
is enough to annoy friends of mine, one of which said: "I flip off every
one I pass, or if I pull up next to one at a light I crank up Eminem in my
Alpine stereo so loud my car shakes. If this were Honolulu or anywhere else
in most of the world we'd be shooting at them."

We didn't sound truck like that because we were cheap. And proud of it.
All we did was affix Ayako's large laminated campaign posters (they cost
1000 yen each, and since we ordered 100, we were gonna put them to full
use!) in strategic places on my Nissan Terrano (the cops told us that we
could only stick things within a two-meter square on any face of a vehicle;
when we realized nobody was paying attention to our sorry little setup, we
plastered our windows). We had no soundtruck fez, not even a megaphone
(nearby towns and cities of Naganuma, Kitahiroshima, Ebetsu, Kuriyama, and
Kurisawa were also running elections, so they were all rented out). We had
no payroll for constant supporters waiting at a rented election house with
warm meals and drinks (Ayako's mom came out to do all that in our house).
But volunteers we had--friends from Sapporo and Tomakomai who came all the
way out to spend a few days with us. We didn't even have formal uniforms
for them (red was Ayako's color, so helpers searched their own closets) or
sashes (our local calligraphy teacher made her some yellow thingies). But
even with bargain-basementism, unexpected surprises--good surprises--were in
the offing.

/////////////////////////////////////////////

THINGS START TO TAKE OFF

The first, most important windfall was due to the forum I told you about in
Part One. The retiring bed-town candidate, a Mr Kobayashi, was impressed
enough with Ayako's platform to throw his weight behind our campaign, saying
in public that she was his successor. Once he had gone that far, he
couldn't let us lose. He gave daily advice on how to campaign, made phone
calls to a number of his supporters, and procured various invitations to
public convocations wrought by the incumbent mayor's high-profile campaign.
We would find ourselves parking the Terrano next to the mayor's flash setup.
A few introductions in public later, we suddenly realized we had been
incorporated into his camp.

Kobayashi also gave us homespun advice about how to get our face to stick
out of the crowd: Stand outside first thing in the morning at one of the
commuter arteries, then bow and wave to the Nanporoites commuting to
Sapporo. Stand outside the local Noukyou shopping center ("outside" meaning
the sidewalk by the parking lot--any closer would be an election violation)
a few hours before dinner, to bow and wave as people enter and exit the
parking lot (maybe even say hello as people come out with their groceries).
Drive around a few neighborhoods (living in a small, compact town has its
advantages) and wave at houses (with a few brave kids and their moms waving
back)...

The trick is to keep doing it. Once you start, you can't quit halfway or
people will wonder what happened to you. You get caught in a classic
Prisoners' Dilemma--everyone else is out there exposing themselves, so if
you don't join in you don't look like you have any fighting spirit; repeat
cycle. People are also suckers for drama--if they see you out there looking
like drowned rat (two of the five campaign days had cold, wet rain) putting
on a brave face, you start getting a sympathy vote--not least because you're
showing people just how much you want the job. You might find the lack of
response you get in the beginning a bit disappointing, but wait: once there
is some sense of precedence (and word-of-mouth saying who's hard at work),
people start waving back more and more.

Especially when it was me out there. After finishing classes, I went home
to put in a few hours. I put on my flashiest duds: cinnamon jacket, red
turtleneck, and grey trousers with black shoes. Then I came up with a real
attention-grabbing device: my sash. I converted a fluorescent-yellow
fabric-covered cable, used for towing cars, into a fashion statement. Big,
suitably heavy and equipped with two silver hooks (clasped together to make
a circle), it looked very silly draped over one shoulder diagonally
(especially when I stuck one of Ayako's campaign posters to it). But it got
attention. Especially when people had to slow down and look around our
parked car as they exited the parking lot, leaving them no choice but to
look in both directions--i.e. at us waving and bowing--before they merged
into traffic.

It was one of the few times where a white boy's inability to avoid
attracting attention worked to a pleasant advantage. Lots of people did
double-takes as they drove past, then looked beyond me to the postered
Terrano to see Ayako and friends bowing away in bright red. A day of this
later, we developed a style. Like the New York City cops who direct traffic
and learn how to dance, I learned how to do a general George Bush wave as a
car approaches, catch a startled eye, hold it, and then wave hard enough get
a smile (if not a wave back) from the housewives (our target demographic).
I even got snickers from older truck drivers (who eventually broke down
after three or four trips past) and cops! (they like being saluted) And
once they turned captive in the parking lot, Ayako went up and made a few
bows, got a few handshakes.

Momentum reached red-shift when we reached the end of the campaign period
(which, in retrospect, is a very long five days). Presents came in from
friends and strangers of power drinks, sake, letters and posters of
encouragement. Our campaign posters wound up being put up on the 47
billboards (scattered over around 500 square kilometers) by complete
strangers. Somebody found us a spare megaphone, and we started driving
around neighborhoods in earnest, broadcasting Ayako's slogans (in between
music from Yamaguchi Momoe, Murashita Kouzou, and the Carpenters, literally
striking a chord with her generation of housewives). She also handwrote and
sent out 600 postcards (postage covered by the town's electoral budget)
outlining her platform. At some point in time, we started to feel like we
could actually win this thing.

By Saturday night, the eve of the election, we found ourselves part of a
juggernaut campaign machine, led by the mayor, with thirteen of the eighteen
candidates standing shoulder-to-shoulder in front of the Noukyou
supermarket. A couple hundred old-town folk swarmed and listened to his
proposals for the town's future (which actually cribbed from Ayako's policy
statements--the problems of the local high school, plans for international
exchanges). It was soon clear that the three candidates who had not thus
far campaigned much at all were going to lose. That left one more seat up
for grabs--Ayako versus the two Communist candidates.

//////////////////////////////////////////////

SWITCHING IT OFF ON CUE

After the Saturday night rally, there were two more hours of vertiginous
sound-truck rush around the neighborhoods. Every district was effectively
carved up into fiefdoms secured for certain candidates. Our part of the
town, however, was up for grabs. But the gold rush was not unpleasant.
Whenever our sound trucks inevitably crossed paths, or we drove past a
rival's campaign headquarters, we would sportingly wish each other success
over our PA systems. We would even get out and shake hands in bonhomnie, as
if we were all fellow candidates in it together, part of the club and good
friends for the public to see. We even got our supporters to believe they
were part of the team; they in turn would to recruit more supporters to root
for us--so that they wouldn't be on a losing side. Who cared about issues
anymore? We were all doing our best in the holy spirit of teamwork. The
only ones who wouldn't play this game were the Communists (who consider this
kind of public friendliness politically unethical--they prefer to assign
votes in private), so the mayor's political machine decided to use that
against them. We heard word that votes were being sent towards Ayako--to
unseat the commies. Within those final two hours, the battle lines were
drawn and sealed. At 8PM, the town went silent for another four years.

//////////////////////////////////////////////

RESULTS

Well, in the end, did all this campaigning work? On Sunday, April 27, 2003,
the polls were opened from 8AM to 8PM. I was selected as one of ten
representatives to do balloting "tachi-ai", and I counted and checked every
single one of 5,703 votes for the town councillors between 9PM and midnight
last night.

The results:

NANPORO-CHOU MAYOR RESULTS:
1. IZAWA Toshimi (incumbent) 4,366 votes
2. SUSUKI Masatoshi (new) 1,160 votes

This race wasn't even close. Friend Suzuki, who got us into this election
in the first place in Part One, ran a rather lonely campaign (where he drove
around neighboorhoods reading his campaign promises--not merely banal
slogans over and over). It got him over 1000 votes, but that was not
enough. It wasn't how the game is played.

NANPORO-CHOU TOWN COUNCIL RESULTS:
(all candidates are incumbents and unaffiliated with any political parties,
unless otherwise indicated)

1. OCHIAI Susumu (Koumeitou) (old townie) 465 votes
2. GAWASE Toshihiko (farmer) 461 votes
3. SAWADA Kazukiyo (old businessman) 437 votes
4. HONMA Hidemasa (new--the "ramen dream" farmer) 433 votes
5. SATOU Shouichi (farmer) 418 votes
6. OKA Shinichi (farmer) 410 votes
7. TAKEIDA Shinji (old businessman) 361 votes
8. MIYOSHI Fujio (farmer) 354 votes
9. TAJIMA Hideki (old businessman) 345 votes
10. ISHIKAWA Yasuhiro (farmer) 327 votes
11. SHIRAKURA Kenichi (farmer) 315 votes
12. SHIGAURA Manabu (new) (new townie) 301 votes
13. SUGAWARA Ayako (new) (new townie) 258 votes
14. NANBU Youko (Communist) (occupation unclear) 246 votes

Bubbling under and losing their seat/chance for a seat:
KUMAKI Kimio (Communist) (occupation unclear) 227 votes
KONDOU Chouichiro (new) (old townie) 176 votes
IMAIZUMI Masamichi (new) (new townie) 121 votes
MIYAMOTO Masahiro (new) (new townie) 49 votes

We won.
//////////////////////////////////////////////

CONCLUSIONS AND LESSONS

As you can probably tell by the rushed tone of this report, I am writing in
a bit of a daze on three hours' sleep and after two classes. Still, some
realities on getting elected are setting in. If I could point to one thing
that probably did the most to get Ayako established as a candidate, it was
probably that forum I told you about in Part One. According to the rumor
mill, Ayako made a good first impression, enough so that the old housewives
(more likely the ones to vote in a 56.51% turnout rate) started jawing about
this young sparkly shikkari shiteiru woman who's better than the Communist
broad. And once that image was out, and early enough in the election
period, it was just a matter of reconfirming that day after day, thankfully
for less than a week.

Which goes to show that if you want to get elected in a small town,
anywhere, you gotta get out there and make your presence known. The
candidates who made a written statement, then just sat and waited for votes
to come to them (Imaizumi and Miyamoto) got left behind. Those who went
against the flotilla were locked out (Kondou only ran because he wanted to
knock out neighbor Tajima, Kumaki played by Japanese Communist Party rules
and did not come off as friendly at all in public). In short, and with help
from incumbents, Sugawara Ayako learned how to play the game.

But this time around it wasn't just Ayako who won in Japanese elections.
Naturalized Japanese Anthony Bianchi ([email protected]), of Inuyama,
near Nagoya, and Jeremy Angel ([email protected])'s wife, Chiyoko, of
Fujimi, near Nagano, also won seats in their local assemblies. Send them
your congratulations.

So there is some news here: there is hope that people of international
backgrounds will further establish and foster the inevitable idea of
foreign-born person as local resident. We are, after all, learning to play
the game like anyone else. And now we are getting political representation.
We shall soon see what sort of future that brings.
 
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thomas

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LOLOL, not entirely related, but here's a funny roundup of local election candidates in Tokyo, presented by Rob Pongi (Realtime video)

=> robpongi.com

:D
 
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