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Thursday, Feb. 10, 2011
Major parties put on notice
The results of the "triple vote" in Nagoya last Sunday smack of political theatrics but serve as a warning to the current two main parties — the Democratic Party of Japan and the Liberal Democratic Party — to correctly respond to people's dissatisfaction.
Mayor Takashi Kawamura of Nagoya, who calls for a permanent 10 percent city residential tax cut and halving the number of the city assembly members and their salaries, won the Nagoya mayoral election, having resigned last autumn to try to renew citizens' trust. In a referendum instigated by him, Nagoya citizens overwhelmingly voted to dissolve the city assembly, which opposes his ideas. And, in the third poll, the governorship of Aichi Prefecture was won by Mr. Kawamura's ally Mr. Hideaki Omura, a former LDP Lower House member who calls for a 10 percent prefectural residential tax cut.
This tax cut won't bring any benefit to low-income people, who are exempted from the tax. Even if wasteful spending is cut, a permanent tax reduction will strain the city's finances and could reduce social welfare spending. Mr. Kawamura also plans to run candidates from his own local party Genzei Nippon (Tax Reduction Japan) in the March 13 city assembly election in an attempt to control the assembly. The assembly must be responsive to citizens' problems. Still his politics is clearly populistic, and he received the largest number of votes ever in a Nagoya mayoral election.
Mr. Kawamura and Mr. Omura also call for merging the Nagoya city government and the Aichi prefectural government to form a Chukyo metropolitan government. Meanwhile, Osaka Gov. Toru Hashimoto calls for creating an Osaka metropolitan government by dismantling the Osaka city government.
Sunday's voting results indicate people's deep dissatisfaction with the failure of existing parties, especially the DPJ and the LDP, to resolve serious problems such as the economic downturn and dwindling job opportunities. The voting results show that people seek to change the shape of Japanese politics through local government. Major parties' abilities will be severely tested in the coming nationwide local elections in April.