Tokyo assembly election: Meet the candidates – Satoru Onishi

(Corrected below)

July 3 marked the start of the Tokyo prefectural assembly election. The sound trucks are out in force:

From Tokyo Prefectural Assembly Election

Hype over the election on the news is almost exclusively focused on whether it will be perceived as an LDP loss. The LDP-Komeito coalition currently controls the assembly in a rough equivalent of the current Lower House situation, so failure for the LDP is defined as whether the DPJ unseats the LDP as the top party. If that happens, LDP members are expected to call for Prime Minister Aso’s head on a platter (and possibly make ex-comedian Miyazaki government Sonomanma Higashi PM install a caretaker PM ahead of the general election that must be held by September. Correction – Higashikokubaru¬†could realistically only become PM after the general election. Apologies for the brain lapse).

Each party has stressed some local issues: The LDP/Komeito emphasize their efforts to help the local economy, while the DPJ tries to inject hot-button issues like the ailing bank Shinginko Tokyo and opposition to plans to move Tsukiji fish market to Toyosu.

For their part, the Happiness Realization Party (the new political arm of neo-Buddhist religion Happy Science) is playing up the threat of North Korea to scare people into supporting their party’s suggestion that Japan go ahead with a pre-emptive strike.

These are the issues candidates mention to the national media and in open-air speeches, though the campaign literature barely mentions them. At least in Adachi-ku, on paper every candidate has almost the exact same policy proposals – more welfare, more infrastructure, more of anything you can spend money on.

In Adachi-ku, 10 candidates are competing for 6 seats. Today I’d like to briefly introduce the one candidate Mrs. Adamu and I found somewhat reasonable:

Satoru Onishi – incumbent DPJ member

Satoru Onishi (48) – A current first-term assemblyman running for re-election, his political experience comes from a turn as the public secretary to DPJ Lower House Member Ritsuo Hosokawa (a former Socialist MP and current Shadow Defense Minister). He left the secretary position in 2001 to mount an ultimately unsuccessful run for the Tokyo assembly but succeeded the next time around in 2005.

Policy: Onishi predictably advocates generous welfare programs, such as a monthly 26,000 yen handout to families with children and lower classroom sizes, to benefit “your IMPORTANT children and grandchildren, for the NEXT GENERATION.”

Chances of winning: In the 2005 election Onishi came in 4th behind an LDP and two Komeito candidates. This year polling would indicate his party is set to do much better at the expense of the LDP, so it’s a pretty safe bet he will win re-election.

A touch of humanity: As graduate of Ritsumeikan University’s economics faculty, he and I share an alma mater (I was a one-year exchange student).

Since the Tokyo election commission publishes the home addresses of the candidates (PDF – don’t tell the personal information worry-warts), I was able to locate the apartment complex where Onishi lives. According to Google Maps, he lives right next to the mall where this stupid human trick took place:

12 thoughts on “Tokyo assembly election: Meet the candidates – Satoru Onishi”

  1. I’m not voting for any politician willing to entrust vital escalator-spinning to the private sector.

  2. Is making Higashikokubaru PM actually possible? Do the rules of the LDP or the constitution, etc, require that the PM be a sitting Diet member? Are you actually seriously suggesting this is a possibility.

    On a different note, for something as important as the Tokyo elections, why do you only have 10 candidates for 6 seats? All elections in Japan seem to have surprisingly few candidates.

  3. Ken,

    Corrected the post. I wrote that without thinking and forgot to go back and correct it. Yes the constitution requires the PM to be a civilian Diet member.

    The election is shockingly non-competitive, and in fact it’s the least competitive in recent memory (just 220 candidates for 127 seats, meaning only 93 people can lose). The seats pay VERY well, and in a district like Adachi you only have to come in 6th to have a guaranteed job for 4 years.

    The only reason I can see is that the prefectural assembly members have very little role in shaping policy. They can either support or oppose the governor but that seems to be about it. The governor’s office and the national government set the agenda in advance.

  4. VERY well paid? How well paid? Is it full time or part time?

    Good post. Regarding the “Happiness Realization Party,” I just got back from a trip through souther Hokkaido, and that party has more posters out than all other political parties combined. The two major platforms stated on their posters are:

    – Reform Article 9. Protect our country from North Korea.

    – Abolish the sales and estate tax. Double your money.

  5. They make about 17 million yen a year, plus perks. Some of the candidates would be taking a pay cut (one DPJ candidate was an executive at a job training company) but most wouldn’t be and don’t seem to have any skills outside politics or bureaucracy.

  6. To duplicate Curzon’s observation from the opposite end of the country – very, very surprised at how many “Happienss” posters around here.

  7. What happened to the Happy Clappy third plank, 300,000,000 million Japanese by 2030? Are they keeping that one off the posters?

  8. I’ve never noticed any of their posters around here, although they do have a building in town that I’ve passed.

  9. In Tokyo they are out in full force due to the election.

    This morning there were about 15 LDP supporters shouting OHAYO GOZAIMASU to people at Ayase station. Cant we just have TV ads and spare commuters the annoyance?

  10. If elected, can they stay employed in other jobs? In the US, being a state senator/assemblyperson is a common ‘sidejob’ for lawyers, doctors, farmers and business people who are community figures in their own right and get elected because their business or practice permits it. In Japan, can prefecture assembly members do the same?

  11. I think that largely depends on the size of the state. I mean, do NY or CA assembly members really work have main jobs and just do their assembling on the side? Oh wait, both states’ assemblies are completely ineffectual and the NY Senate hasn’t convened properly in like two months now.

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