Tokyo

Is Koike about to sizzle the LDP on the teppanyaki plate lit by PM Abe?

2A77DDF3-B1E7-4F07-A498-A9E352E98561.jpeg

Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike seems to be gathering speed with her Party of Hope as the Dems have all but told their members to unite under her flag. She is openly stating she isn’t out for second place although hasn’t stated her intention to run herself. Remember that Koike is no amateur, having served as a national cabinet minister for defence and the environment under Koizumi. When she went for the leadership of the LDP in 2008 she spoke of the glass ceiling Hillary Clinto spoke of as more of an iron plate in Japan. Forget her gender, she is offering a “fresh” face. In contrast PM Abe is running a campaign where he is willingly throwing dead bodies of his own party so long as he can cling to a majority. Hardly a strategy of promise and one that all of the scandals within the LDP only give Koike perfect cannon fodder to use against the LDP –  scandals ranging from graft, cronyism (two blatant incidents inviolving the PM), extramarital affairs and ministers screaming at subordinates.  It is hard to work out whether Abe is channeling Malcolm Turnbull or Theresa May…one thing is that taking the voting public for mugs isn’t a good strategy.

You can almost smell the LDP smoldering on the teppanyaki hot plate Abe lit. However it seems that everyone is increasingly looking at the chef – Governor Koike. She deserves to make it. Not because she is a woman but because she actually looks to provide real leadership and a viable alternative to decades of establishment rule. Sadly Japan’s opposition parties have mostly been in opposition so they lack experience. United behind a leader like Koike and the electorate might well give her a mandate. PM Abe must really be feeling the heat and there is no worse campaign to run than that of defending the indefensible against someone that the press is giving constant airtime to. He is fighting a defensive game not to lose. She is fighting an aggressive game to win. Who would you place your bets on?

Japanese politics hasn’t been this interesting in ages.

Tokyo’s Iron Lady preparing a wrecking ball

3E914434-B41C-4D3C-BC9D-04F29A0A1F90

PM Abe may have more than met his match. It seems Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike could win the support of defections from the flailing Democratic Party of Japan. They are considering running no candidates under their own banner but under hers – The Party of Hope (Kibo no To). Koike isn’t playing by the rules and PM Abe’s wish to hold a snap election knowingly ceding seats so he could keep a majority may end up backfiring. She has next to nothing to lose and she represents a  “fresh” scandal-less face to the electorate. She is on a wave. Abe’s majority under threat.

Think of it this way. The LDP is embarking on a strategy that seeks to take some losses. In a sense they are openly conceding it is all about clinging to power. Hardly a promising election strategy. The slew of scandals (two with the PM himself) works to Koike’s favour in appealing to those that see her as a reboot to the decades of LDP cronyism.  Still early days but the momentum is almost tsunami like. Drain the swamp?

Tokyo Gov Koike shows powerful ad spurning the old guard

Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike has released a powerful video which will likely capture the mood of what is going on in Japan’s political sphere. The cigarette chugging old men in the ad are screaming along the lines of “you wanna rise against us?”, “you wanna spurn our organizations?” and “if you change things it will be so problematic”. The model designed to look like Koike strides past ignoring them. With the stench in national politics (a long stream of scandals and corruption) her message is indeed powerful. It is still very early days and her success will rely on how ready some politicians are ready to defect. Koike is getting massive airtime and even if she chooses not to run it will be pitched as a Koike vs Abe campaign. Remember the hugely popular former PM Junichiro Koizumi was a backer of Koike. Let the games begin. This video will resonate.

Tokyo Governor Koike for Japan’s first female PM?

3E914434-B41C-4D3C-BC9D-04F29A0A1F90.jpeg

Japan’s PM Shinzo Abe called a snap election yesterday to try to secure a 266 seat majority for his long ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP). The call was largely based on taking advantage of turmoil within the Minshinto (Democratic Party) where one of its married MPs was caught having an affair with a married man. While the LDP hasn’t been short of its own scandals, Abe is hopeful that holding an election on October 22 will leave little time for Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike to prepare enough of a threat to steal Abe’s majority. It should be a good show none-the-less.

Several months ago in the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly elections, Koike’s Tomin First (Tokyoites First) Party smacked Abe’s LDP convincingly. She won 49 seats (out of 50 contested) from 6 held before the election in the 127 seat Municipal Assembly. The LDP went from 57 to 23, 15 less that its worst ever showing to date. She is now leading the Kibonoto (Party of Hope).

Governor Koike said, “There is insufficient hope in Japan, I am at the forefront to regain the glow, I want to get involved directly with the national administration…I put the letters of “hope” on the policy”

Whether she runs for national office or just runs the party behind the scenes, she is a force to be reckoned with.

According to one of my savvy barstool political analysts, he says 266 seats are what are required for the LDP to maintain sole majority in the lower house, get the chairman appointed to the 17 committees in the parliament and maintaining majority within each of tbe committee.

Let the anti-establishment fireworks begin…perhaps Abe will feel a bit like Merkel.

Alfa Romeo Giulia launch in Tokyo

IMG_0582.JPG

You have to hand it to the Italians for design and flair. Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) launched its new Alfa Romeo Giulia model in Tokyo tonight. It is a car I’ve long been fond of given my father owned a 1970s version. In Japan FCA sales have almost quadrupled in 10 years to over 20,000 cars. Chrysler/Jeep sales are up 10x over that period as well. American cars have always struggled in Japan for the obvious reasons of narrow streets being unsuitable for Yank tanks. Jeep has put one of its cars on a photocopier and shrunk it for Japan. Boom. Target client needs and away you go. FCA CEO Pontus Haggstrom has steered the company for the lst 9 years to turn it into the fastest growing foreign brand in Japan. Impressive.

The thing I loved most about the new Giulia Quadrifoglio is that it hasn’t been built in a gluten-free multi-ethnic factory which has one eye on Johnny Polarbear. It is pure noise, speed and emotion. As the head of design said, “we want a car that rules the heart not the head”. Too true. No wonder the tag line of Alfa is “la meccanica delle emozioni’.

Abe’s LDP smashed in Tokyo Municipal Assembly election

IMG_9196.JPG

Has populism has found its way to Tokyo? Not really. PM Shinzo Abe’s LDP, which has ruled Japan at a national level for decades) bar a few periods was smashed in the Tokyo Municipal Assembly elections yesterday. Tokyo Gov Yuriko Koike had split from the LDP to form the Tomin First (Tokyo-ites First) Party. She won 49 seats (out of 50 contested) from 6 held before the election in the 127 seat Municipal Assembly. The LDP went from 57 to 23, 15 less that its worst ever showing to date. Even the Communist Party gained seats at the expense of the LDP.

Koike’s popularity (despite sliding from 74% to 59%  over the dithering around Tsukiji Fish Market redevelopment) has been driven by the idea of ‘transparency’ in government policy decision making, a clamp down on wasteful spending and accountable government.

Abe’s LDP on the other hand has been embroiled in scandal after scandal and citizens of the capitol were not prepared to be taken for mugs (although only 33% showed up to vote). Whether it be the out-of-control screaming of recently resigned LDP member Mayuko Toyoda to her staffer, the favouritism shown in the Kake Gakuen scandal to PM Abe’s long term friend, the sale of government land at a 90% discount to set up a nationalist school (Moritomo Gakuen) or even the PM being booed on the campaign trail, voters let the LDP know that they’re sick of old school establishment politics. A national election is still some 18 months off.

The bigger issue being debated is whether Koike’s party could make serious inroads into the LDP at a national level putting Abenomics and ultra loose monetary policy on the back burner. The LDP’s national junior coalition party (Komeito) had backed Koike’s Tomin First since last year after the LDP balked at salary cuts for Tokyo Municipal Assembly politicians.

Abe tried to hose down the talks of the rise of Tomin First arguing they were like the Japan New Party which floundered after success in the 1993 Tokyo Municipal Assembly elections. They promised much but ended up disbanding despite Koike being 2IC.

Abe will no doubt crank up public spending in the regional areas to support prefectures with rapidly aging populations. What many overlook is that Japan is still backed by an aging society. Despite all the wishes of the youth for reform, the elderly will continue to grow as a % of the voter base as the population decreases. This means policy will need to be serving the silver-haired.

Abe can’t dismiss these dreadful results out of hand. The citizens of Tokyo are livid at the LDP’s antics. Yet a 33% (+2%) turnout suggests voter apathy is still alive and kicking. Abe isn’t going to be finished by this but the party needs a long hard look at itself. The voters are suitably upset. Is this a wave of populism a la Trump or Brexit? Not really. Japan continues to suffer from lacking a credible opposition which means inexperienced parties often fail in their first term. Every now and again the LDP gets sent a warning shot before business as usual returns.