Most readers will remember Taizo Sugimura, the Koizumi “Orphan” accidentally elected to the lower house as a LDP diet member in the 2005 snap election. After a string of disgraceful incidents in which the party quietly told Sugimura to stay out of the public sphere, he was silently booted from the 2009 LDP ticket after his bull-in-China-shop attempt to run for a seat in Hokkaido’s 1st district against a local favorite.
Sugimura is about to relaunch his political career, this time running for an Upper House proportional representative seat for Hokkaido on the ticket of the “Tachiagare Nippon” (the so-called “Sunrise Party”), the stoggy conservative splinter group that broke away from the LDP. The party’s goal in the selection of Sugimura is apparently to appeal to non-partisan voters through Sugimura’s appearances in media and his name recognition. You can read the Japanese article here.
Meanwhile, I was equally surprised to see that DPJ party leader Ichiro Ozawa has pulled in Ryoko “Yawara” Tani, the female Olympic judo wrestler. In a press conference earlier today she announced that “I want a gold medal in the election too” — in addition to seeking to join the 2012 Summer Olympics in London. Then there’s also Mari Okabe, a former model and TV talent, who has been nominated to stand for election on the DPJ ticket as well. Here again, the media clearly outlines the party’s motive in picking these candidates — seeking to bring in votes by picking popular people with a wide name recognition.
How do Japan’s political parties get away with this type of popcorn populism? I find it disheartening that people with no merit whatsoever seeking to run for public office are picked for the blatant purpose of nothing more than appealing to the lowest common denominator of voter. Sadly, my informal surveys leads me to believe that lots of Japanese people feel the same way about this state of affairs, but accept it with bland fatalism and disinterest in the state of Japan’s political affairs.
Japan’s Upper House Election is scheduled for July 11th.