Comedian shuns political parties to win gubernatorial race in Miyazaki

A comedian, Sonomanma Higashi (whom I’ve unfortunately never heard of), has won a governor’s race by shunning party politics completely (and the usual wheeling and dealing for institutional votes that such politics usually entail), relying only on his own fame and convictions to earn the job:

Sonomamma Higashi, a popular showbiz figure, was backed not only by the bulk of the floating vote but also by a sizable chunk of the prefecture’s massive conservative constituency.

Higashi’s victory is another sign of Japanese voters’ disillusionment with mainstream politics, which may have been deepened by a recent series of corruption scandals in local politics.

In Miyazaki, the bid-rigging scandal has led to the arrests of former Gov. Tadahiro Ando and some top prefectural government officials. The prefecture has traditionally been a bastion of rural conservatism, with the Liberal Democratic Party enjoying strong support.

But the conservative base was divided over two rival candidates, while the Democratic Party of Japan, the main opposition party, did not field its own candidate. Higashi, who apparently has no ties with local vested interests, was the choice among Miyazaki voters fed up with collusive politics.

Higashi, a native of Miyazaki, ran a low-key, low-budget campaign, supported only by his friends, and presented a well-prepared campaign platform. High name recognition was not the only factor behind his success.

The voter turnout was the highest for a Miyazaki gubernatorial poll in about 30 years. The voting rate was also high in the gubernatorial election in Fukushima Prefecture in November, which was also held to fill a post vacated by the resignation of the former governor over a bid-rigging scandal. (Nikkei Editorial)

A conservative base of independent voters turning away from the LDP has the party spooked, says the Yomiuri:

Former comedian Sonomanma Higashi’s victory in the Miyazaki gubernatorial election Sunday–without the support of any political party–sent shock waves through the Liberal Democratic Party.

A senior party figure expressed concern saying, “Floating voters who were fans of former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi’s style of theatrical politics may have started drifting away from the LDP after Prime Minister Shinzo Abe took office.”

In light of unified local elections in April and the House of Councillors election in summer, the LDP likely will have to review its strategy for winning the support of swing voters.

Opinion polls have indicated that independent voters are abandoning Abe and the LDP. Issues behind this trend are thought to include the return of the so-called postal rebels to the party; the resignation of Genichiro Sata, state minister for administrative reform and regional revitalization; and financially driven political scandals.

Many LDP members believe that swing voters who distance themselves from the party will not be quick to return, and in a worst-case scenario for the party, floating voters would cast their vote for the Democratic Party of Japan.

I have advice for the LDP: if it’s Koizumi-style politics you need, the only answer is to bring back Koizumi. The people of Japan will thank you for it.

6 thoughts on “Comedian shuns political parties to win gubernatorial race in Miyazaki”

  1. A comedian elected as governor: it’s the early 90s all over again!

    (Will Sonomanma’s tenure end as ignominiously as that of Knock Yokohama? One thing’s for certain: the LDP will ultimately retake power. This is Japan.)

  2. Knock was governor when I first went to Japan, and every time I met a middle-aged man in Osaka the conversation would inevitably lead to him saying “So… you know our governor’s a comedian? Ha ha!”

  3. Higashikokubaru (quite a mouthful, that real name of his) was big in the 1980s when I first came here. He appeared on lots of shows with Beat Takeshi.

    One of the more impressive things about his election isn’t that he was an entertainer (Knock, Aoshima Yukio beat him there, and the only reason Tokyo has its present governor is because people are all voting for his dead brother) or that he ran as an outsider nonpolitician. He also actively refused any support from his old friends in showbiz, telling them not to make comments on the contest and pointedly not inviting them to come stump for him. What’s more, he has a criminal record, including sleeping with a minor in 1998. (LOL, a trip to Wikipedia shows he was also one of the ones arrested in 1986 when Takeshi led his troupe to the Friday publishing office to beat up people for aggressively interviewing some girl Takeshi was dating.)

    Anyway, voters looked past that record and chose the dude from outside the system. The Japanese coverage I’ve looked at paints this as a blow to both the LDP (the insiders) and the DPJ (who fail to wear the mantle of outsiders in contests like this one).

  4. Now Higashikokubaru(could be an Okinawan name) got entered Waseda couple of years ago as sort of turn around after he got busted by sleeping wth minor . and his wife left him last year hearing his ambition to politics….
    This could be the finest example dropouts re-challenge that Abe proclaims….,Not!

  5. As the old saying goes, in Japan “The nail that stands up gets hammered down”. Wait a minute…. I guess the nail that stands up gets lots of attention and gets elected.

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