Kinki, the metropolitan west

The Kinki regional block, which includes Shiga prefecture, Kyoto, Osaka, and Hyogo, Nara, and Wakayama prefectures, elects forty-eight representatives from single-member districts and twenty-nine more through proportional representation, for a total of seventy-seven representatives.

The third major metropolitan area along with the Tokyo and Nagoya areas, it is another area where the DPJ can expect to make major gains over its 2005 returns. In 2005 the LDP-Komeito and the opposition parties were nearly even in PR voting: the government parties won fifteen, the opposition parties fourteen, with the LDP's winning eleven to the DPJ's nine. But the DPJ did poorly in SMDs, winning only eight of the forty-eight SMDs. In 2003, however, the DPJ won twenty SMDs to the LDP's nineteen, and in the PR voting the balance was fifteen to fourteen in favor of the opposition parties.

Shiga

The DPJ is in a position to win at least three of Shiga's four seats — and stands a strong chance in the fourth.

The DPJ's candidate in the first district, Tatsuo Kawabata, is a DPJ vice president and has been elected to the Diet seven times. He was forced to settle for a PR seat in 2005, losing to LDP incumbent Kenichiro Ueno, but should easily retake the seat this year. The DPJ's Issei Tajima (second district) won in 2003 and in 2005, and should defeat the LDP's Yuji Fujii for the second consecutive election. In the third district, DPJ incumbent Taizo Mikazuki, who first won the seat in 2003, was reelected by fewer than 300 votes over LDP candidate Osamu Uno. Mikazuki should have an easier time in this year's rematch.

The fourth district, created in the 2002 redistricting, has been won by the LDP's Mineichi Iwanaga in both elections since its creation. Iwanaga, however, has retired, meaning that Tenzo Omura, the DPJ candidate he defeated in 2003 and 2005 (by only 5,000 votes in 2003), stands a strong chance of defeating LDP newcomer Takaya Muto, a former policy staffer for the LDP's caucus in the Shiga prefectural assembly. In the past the JCP vote has roughly equaled or exceeded Iwanaga's margin of victory, but while the JCP is fielding a candidate, Omura should win comfortably.

Kyoto

Kyoto, with six districts, has been split between the LDP and the DPJ in the past two elections.

Former DPJ leader Seiji Maehara (second district), Kenta Izumi(third district), and Kazunori Yamanoi (sixth district) should all be reelected easily. (Maehara will face SDPJ candidate Takakage Fujita in addition to JCP candidate Toshifumi Hara, but given Maehara's "neo-conservatism," Fujita probably hurts Hara more than he hurts Maehara.)

One factor that will determine whether the DPJ can pick up more seats in Kyoto is the JCP, which has done extraordinarily well in Kyoto in the past.

In the first district, LDP incumbent Bunmei Ibuki, education minister the Abe cabinet and LDP secretary-general and finance minister (briefly) under Yasuo Fukuda, may win reelection largely by dint of the JCP's running Keiji Kokuta, its Diet strategy chairman, in the district. In 2000, Kokuta received 68,000 votes, with the DPJ candidate's finishing a distant third. In 2003 his vote total fell to 50,000 votes, resulting in a third-place finish, but more than enough votes to throw the election to Ibuki. The 2005 was similar to 2003, except that unlike in 2003 only Kokuta received a PR seat — DPJ candidate Kazuya Tamaki did not. This year's outcome should resemble 2003's, with new DPJ candidate Tomoyuki Taira's finishing second to Ibuki and Kokuta's finishing third, both with enough votes to win PR seats.

In the fourth district, which until 2003 was represented by the LDP's Hiromu Nonaka, the race features three of four candidates from 2005: LDP incumbent Yasuhiro Nakagawa, DPJ candidate Keiro Kitagami, and independent (LDP postal rebel) Hideo Tanaka. The JCP is fielding candidate Koichi Yoshida. Kitagami will likely win this time around: he was 3,000 votes behind Nakagawa and won a PR seat in 2005, while Tanaka finished roughly 160 votes behind Nakagawa. Kitagami will presumably win by drawing votes away from the other three candidates.

The LDP should be safe in the fifth district, where incumbent Sadakazu Tanigaki, who has won by large margins since 1996, faces a new DPJ challenger, Mai Ohara, and the same JCP challenger, Sayumi Yoshida, from the past two elections. Until 2005, no DPJ candidate had exceeded 40,000 votes — and while the DPJ received 49,000 votes in 2005, that was still almost 60,000 less than Tanigaki's votes.

The DPJ should win four of six seats in Kyoto.

Osaka

Osaka, the biggest jurisdiction in the block, sends nineteen representatives to the Diet. In 2005, the LDP won thirteen, Komeito won four — and the DPJ won only two seats, a marked change from 2003 when the DPJ won nine, the LDP six, and Komeito four. In other words, there are seven seats that the DPJ won in 2003 and should be able to win again. The DPJ should also be helped by the support of Osaka governor Toru Hashimoto.

Hirano Hirofumi (eleventh district) and Takashi Nagayasu (nineteenth district), the DPJ's incumbents from 2005, should win reelection comfortably.

In the fourth district, the DPJ's Osamu Yoshida will try to retake the seat he won in 2003 from the LDP's Nakayama Yasuhide. Yoshida, who has been elected to the Diet three times, bested Nakayama, the son of former Diet member Masaaki Nakayama, the nephew of former foreign minister Taro Nakayama, and the grandson of Masa Nakayama, Japan's first female cabinet minister, in 2003, although Nakayama won a PR seat. While the JCP has won at least 25,000 votes in the past two elections, Yoshida should be able to take the seat back from Nakayama.

In the seventh district, LDP incumbent Naomi Toshiaki will try to defend her seat from the DPJ's Osamu Fujimura, who represented the district first as a New Frontier member in 1996 and as a DPJ member in 2000 and 2003. Fujimura will win comfortably.

Similarly, the DPJ's candidate in the eighth district, Nakano Kansei, first won the district in 1996 under the NFP banner and then again in 2000 and 2003 as a DPJ candidate. The LDP's Takashi Otsuka will likely go down to defeat.

Nobumori Otani, the DPJ's candidate in the ninth district, won the seat in 2000 and 2003 before losing in 2005 to Takeshi Nishida, the LDP member he defeated in 2000. However, Nishida died in 2006, prompting a by-election that was the first following the transition from Koizumi to Abe. Kenji Harada, the son of a former LDP cabinet minister, won the by-election, with help no doubt from Abe's popularity. Otani should win easily.

Jinji Tarutoko, the DPJ's candidate in the twelfth district, first won the seat in 1996 as an NFP candidate, and was reelected in 2000 and 2003 as a DPJ candidate. His victory in 2003 was narrow — fewer than 1000 votes — over LDP candidate Tomokatsu Kitagawa, who won the district in 2005 by nearly 30,000 votes. Tarutoko should win the seat back for the DPJ.

In the seventeenth district, the DPJ will be fielding Megumu Tsuji, who ran losing campaigns in the third district in 2003 and 2005 (although he won a PR seat in 2003), against LDP incumbent Nobuko Okashita, who in 2005 defeated the now notorious DPJ incumbent Shingo Nishimura. Nishimura, an outspoken conservative, won a PR seat in 2005, was arrested in 2005 on suspicion of having violated the Lawyers Law, fell into depression in 2008 when his son fell to his death from his apartment, and left the DPJ later that year to join the Reform Club, a minor party. Nishimura is running for the seat again, but given what has transpired since 2005, it is unlikely that Nishimura will be a factor in the race. Tsuji should win this year.

In the tenth district, the Social Democratic Party of Japan is fielding the primary opposition candidate, Kiyomi Tsujimoto, against LDP incumbent Matsunami Kenta. In 2005 the SDPJ fielded Tsujimoto while the DPJ fielded the incumbent Miyoko Hida, resulting in Matsunami's winning, as the two opposition candidates combined for more than 120,000 votes to Matsunami's 83,000 votes. With the DPJ's backing Tsujimoto — who finished second and won a PR seat in 2005 — the SDPJ should pick up this seat.

The LDP is strong in four districts. Koki Chuma(first district) will face DPJ candidate Atsushi Kumada for the third straight election — Kumada has never come close enough to win even a PR seat. In the thirteenth district, LDP incumbent Akira Nishino, who first won the district in 1996 as an NFP candidate before winning it in 2003 and 2005 as the LDP candidate, faces the opposition-backed PNP candidate Junko Shiraishi. Nishino will presumably hold his seat, helped by the JCP's running Hidekatsu Yoshii, who has been reelected six times and in 2005 received 41,000 votes. He was won PR seats in the district in the past three elections, finishing second in 2000. Takashi Tanihata (fourteenth district) and Naokazu Takemoto (fifteenth district) should be easily reelected as well.

The LDP is vulnerable in the eighteenth district. The incumbent Nakayama Taro is, at eighty-four, the oldest Diet member and the only one to have been born during the Taisho period. Nakayama faces Osamu Nakagawa, who lost by fewer than 20,000 votes in 2003 and won a PR seat before losing by a sizable margin in 2005. Nakayama has been forced to campaign hard this year, and may be defeated by Nakagawa.

Komeito has strong incumbents in Masahiko Tabata (third district) and Yutaka Fukushima (sixth district). Its incumbents in the fifth district, Takayoshi Taniguchi, and the sixteenth district, Komeito secretary-general Kazuo Kitagawa, are more vulnerable. In the fifth, Taniguchi faces Tetsuo Inami, who lost by 7,000 votes in 2003. For Inami to win, he will have to cut into the JCP vote, 43,000 votes in 2005, 37,000 votes in 2003, both times enough to make a difference in the election. Opposing Kitagawa is Hiroyuki Moriyama, a former Osaka assemblyman running for higher office for the first time. Moriyama could upset the Komeito heavyweight, as Yoshikazu Tarui, the DPJ's candidate in 2003 and 2005 lost by only 11,000 votes in 2003 and won a PR seat.

Finally, Osaka's second district is a tossup. In a rematch of the 2005 election, LDP incumbent Shika Kawajo will face Hitoshi Hagihara, the DPJ candidate who finished third in 2005, and postal rebel independent Akira Sato. Kawajo narrowly bested Sato, winning by roughly 2,000 votes, while Hagihara finished a distant third with just over 50,000 votes. The DPJ has never done particularly well in this district, so it may once again be a battle between Kawajo and Sato. Kawajo may have the upper hand.

In Osaka, the DPJ will likely win eleven seats, the LDP five, Komeito two, and the SDPJ one.

Hyogo

The LDP and Komeito swept Hyogo's twelve districts in 2005, with the LDP's taking ten and Komeito's winning the last two. The balance between government and opposition was nine and three in 2003.

LDP incumbents Kichi Inoue (fourth district) and Yasutoshi Nishimura (ninth district) are likely safe.

Meanwhile it is possible for the DPJ to win nine seats in Hyogo.

In the first district, the DPJ lost in 2005, but its candidate lost by less than 1,000 votes in 2003. Its candidate this year, Masae Ido, is a former prefectural assemblywoman, making her a politically experienced candidate who enjoys the support of DPJ heavyweights. She should defeat LDP incumbent Masahito Moriyama, who won for the first time in 2005.

In the second district, Komeito's Kazuyoshi Akaba faces DPJ challenger Koichi Mukoyama, a former Kobe city assemblyman. Akaba won by more than 20,000 votes in 2005, but in 2003, he defeated the DPJ's Fusaho Izumi by little over 3,000 votes. Mukoyama should defeat Akaba this year.

Yoshihiro Seki, the LDP's incumbent in the third district, defeated the DPJ's Doi Ryuichi by around 5,000 votes in 2005. Doi, first elected to the district in 1996 from the Democratic Reform Party and from the DPJ in 2000 and 2003, should regain the seat this year.

In the fifth district, LDP incumbent Koichi Tani faces the DPJ's Yasuhiko Kajiwara for the third straight election. Kajiwara lost by 4,000 votes in 2003 and won a PR seat, but lost by nearly 30,000 votes in 2005. Kajiwara should be helped by the absence of independent candidate Toyohiko Himura, whose 36,000 votes in 2005 were more than Tani's margin of victory.

The DPJ candidate in the sixth district, Koichiro Ichimura, won the district in 2003 but finished 10,000 votes behind LDP incumbent Tsukasa Kobiki in 2005, winning a PR seat instead. Ichimura should win the seat this year.

In the tenth district, LDP incumbent Kisaburo Tokai defeated his DPJ challenger Yasuhiro Okada by roughly 20,000 votes in 2003 and 2005. The absence of a JCP candidate this year — JCP candidates received 15,000 and 16,000 votes in 2003 and 2005 respectively — could make the difference in a DPJ victory.

The DPJ candidate in the eleventh district, Takeaki Matsumoto, won the seat in 2000 over the current LDP incumbent Toru Toida. Matsumoto won again in 2003 over Toida but lost to him by fewer than 3,000 votes in 2005. He should retake the seat this time.

In the twelfth district, the DPJ's Yamaguchi Tsuyoshi faces LDP incumbent Saburo Komoto for the fifth time. Yamaguchi has won all but once, in 2000, when Komoto won as an independent. Yamaguchi lost by 5,000 votes in 2003, and in 2005, running as a DPJ candidate for the first time, he finished within 10,000 votes of Komoto and won a PR seat. He should win this time.

Oomae Shigeo (seventh district) faced a split field in 2005, with the DPJ and SDPJ candidates combining for 120,000 votes to Oomae's 145,000. In 2003, the SDPJ's Doi Takako finished roughly 15,000 votes behind Oomae and won a PR seat. With Ishi Toshiro, the DPJ candidate from 2005, as the unified opposition candidate, the DPJ should at least make the election close, although Oomae will likely win.

Finally, in the eighth district Komeito's Tetsuzo Fuyushiba may profit from a divided field: New Party Japan leader Tanaka Yasuo will be contesting the seat, as well SDPJ candidate Banko Ichiki. The SDPJ ran candidates in the district against DPJ candidates in 2003 and 2005, and while they received even fewer votes than JCP candidates, they affected the race — especially in 2003, when the SDPJ's Renko Kitagawa received votes greater than the difference between Fuyushiba and DPJ candidate Kunihiko Muroi.

The DPJ should win at least eight seats in Hyogo, while the LDP will likely win three seats and Komeito one.

Nara

The LDP took three of four seats in Nara in 2005, while the LDP and DPJ split the four in 2003.

The DPJ's Sumio Mabuchi (first district) should win his seat for the third time.

In the second district, LDP incumbent Sanae Takaichi, who had previously served three terms in the Diet 1993-2000, defeated postal rebel Makoto Taki, who in 2005 ran as a NPJ candidate and won a PR seat despite receiving fewer than 30,000 votes, compared with the DPJ's Tetsuji Nakamura, who received more than 70,000 votes. Nakamura had in fact narrowly defeated Taki in 2003, forcing him to settle for a PR seat. This time, however, Taki will be running as the DPJ candidate against Takaichi. Based on the party's performance in the past, the DPJ should be able to pick up the seat — based on declining support for Taki, however, Takaichi could win reelection.

The third district features a rematch between LDP incumbent Shinsuke Okuno and DPJ challenger and former Nara prefectural assemblyman Yoshikawa Masashige. The DPJ lost by 25,000 votes in 2003 and 30,000 in 2005. Okuno should be reelected.

The LDP's Ryotaro Tanose (fourth district) has won the district comfortably, although his margin of victory did fall from 60,000 to 30,000 votes from 2003 to 2005. The DPJ candidate this year is Takanori Oonishi, a former DPJ headquarters staffer and secretary to current upper house member and former lower house member Maeda Takeshi. Oonishi will make it a closer fight, but Tanose should be reelected.

The result? The LDP and DPJ split the prefecture's four seats again.

Wakayama

Wakayama, with three seats, has given all three to the LDP in 2003 and 2005 (technically two to the LDP and one to the Conservative Party in 2003, which soon became an LDP seat). A DPJ candidate has never won an SMD in Wakayama, although NFP candidates won in the past.

In the first district, in 2005 LDP incumbent Tatsuya Tanimoto defeated DPJ challenger Shuhei Kishimoto, a former finance ministry official by 22,000 votes. Kishimoto may be able to upset Tanimoto, who like most LDP incumbents is struggling against the mood in the DPJ's favor.

Masatoshi Ishida, the LDP's incumbent in the second district, has won comfortably in the past, and faces a new DPJ challenger, Naoto Sakaguchi, a prefectural party official. The JCP will not be fielding a candidate in the district, but Ishida should still win reelection.

Finally, against Toshihiro Nikai, METI minister in the Aso cabinet, who has won reelection by enormous margins in the past, the DPJ is running former Wakayama assemblyman Kimiyoshi Tamaki. Nikai has to campaign this time, but he should still win reelection.

The DPJ's best chance to win a seat in the prefecture is the first district, where Kishimoto should be able to close the gap.

Proportional representation

Once again using the d'Hondt method simulator, Yomiuri's latest polling data, and turnout data from 2005, it is possible for the DPJ to win seventeen seats, the LDP nine, and one each for Komeito, the JCP, and the SDPJ. (The distribution of seats among smaller parties is probably not accurate: with the NPJ's Yasuo Tanaka running simultaneously in Hyogo-8 and Kinki PR, the NPJ could pick up one seat. Also, given the JCP's strength in the Kinki block, the JCP will likely do better than one seat.)

Between SMDs and PR seats, the DPJ could win forty-six seats, the LDP twenty-four seats, Komeito four, the SDPJ two, and the JCP one. Forty-six seats would be a major improvement over 2005, of course, but it would also be a fifteen-seat improvement over 2003.


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