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T H E J @ P A N I N C N E W S L E T T E R
Commentary on the Week's Business, Technology and Cultural News
Issue No. 247
Tuesday, October 14, 2003
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-- Politics and Prognostications
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Foreign Correspondents' Club
>> Viewpoint: Politics and Prognostications
Election fever is almost upon Japan, which means only one thing:
insipid, blaring messages ruining any chance of a decent Sunday
morning sleep-in for the next four weeks.
Anyone who has, like us, been in Japan for an election or two will
find a lot of the action hideously familiar. Apart from the wailing
wagons, there will be the usual efforts by candidates to make their
mark with a “clever” poster campaign.
Around our neighborhood there are already a few posters showing one
prospective lawmaker glistening as he lifts weights in a string
vest. And in a rather bold move, the local communist party has
made use of some staggeringly beautiful girls -- though upon close
inspection of the fine-print it becomes distressingly clear that
not a one of them will be a candidate.
The TV slots by the big parties will add to the general cavalcade of
vulgarity. Some of you may remember the tooth-itching horror of
watching Hashimoto in his kendo outfit slaying the allegorical
demons of economic slump and unemployment. Expect more of the
same -- and very probably worse.
But underneath all the flim-flam, surely there are some serious politics
at stake? Possibly so, but it really takes some digging to find them.
If, for example, you want to get an idea of what the LDP intends to
do in the wake of its nearly inevitable victory, you will have a bit
of a job on your hands. The manifestos of the two main parties have
been constructed, but they look as though they were strung together
in a bar: puffed up by plenty of padding, with the distinct appearance
of having been hastily assembled.
The LDP manifesto is also not available to the general public until
the official campaign gets underway in two weeks’ time. Revealingly,
it isn’t even being called a manifesto.
When we telephoned head office to ask for a copy, there were stricken
noises of confusion on the other end of the phone. The word “manifesto”
is, however, being used by the Democratic Party, which wants to appear
dynamic and modern. To that end, it has gone for the classic Japanese
strategy of finding an intelligent-sounding English word and putting it
in katakana -- with all the practical impact of those poorly-written
"Jap-lish" T-shirts that have kept global Gaijin amused for decades.
So, get ready for four noisy weeks without a whole lot of substance.
Our predictions: the LDP will lose around 15 seats but keep an overall
majority in the lower house. Makiko Tanaka will win her seat as an
independent and be brought back into the Koizumi cabinet. And the
newly merged Democratic party will fall apart within six months
of the election.
-- The Editors
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