Makiko Tanaka among big-name losers in election

December 17, 2012

THE ASAHI SHIMBUN

Both long-serving heavyweights and political newcomers were ousted from the Diet by the opposition Liberal Democratic Party's sweeping victory in the Dec. 16 Lower House election.

The ruling Democratic Party of Japan's Makiko Tanaka, education minister, lost to a candidate from the LDP in the Niigata No. 5 single-seat constituency. She could not win a seat in the proportional representation district, either.

Tanaka, 68, used to have a strong support group she inherited from her father, former LDP Prime Minister Kakuei Tanaka. But many of her supporters were either too old to help her campaign or had left the group in defiance of Tanaka.

"We faced diversified values and a change in voters' political needs due to the declining birthrate and graying society," Tanaka said when reporters asked about her defeat.

She has been elected six times as a Lower House member.

The same fate befell Yoshito Sengoku, 66, the former chief Cabinet secretary who was defeated in the Tokushima No. 1 single-seat district by a new LDP entrant. Sengoku also lost in the proportional representation portion.

Sengoku, who wielded enormous influence as a politician well-versed in policy issues, apologized to his supporters for his loss at his campaign office in Tokushima around 11:20 p.m.

"It was an utter rout and all my fault," Sengoku said. "Voters were distrustful of the governing ability of the DPJ, and the election results reflect that."

An 82-year-old woman who has supported Sengoku, a former lawyer, for 20 years said she was sorry that he could not win a seventh term.

"I was proud of sending 'the brains of Japan' from Tokushima," she said.

Sengoku was criticized for his handling of an incident in which a Chinese fishing boat rammed Japan Coast Guard vessels off the disputed Senkaku Islands in September 2010.

Most of the junior politicians known as "Ozawa's children," who hopped from one party to the next with political bigwig Ichiro Ozawa, 70, were also defeated as their party, the Tomorrow Party of Japan, lost big.

Yukiko Miyake, 47, was fielded in the home turf of Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda, Chiba No. 4 single-seat district, at Ozawa's behest.

The decision was made on Nov. 16, the day the Lower House was dissolved for a snap election.

Noda won by a large margin, while Miyake came in a distant third.

"As we feared, we did not have enough time," an official at her campaign office said.

Miyake first won a seat in the 2009 election, in the Gunma No. 4 single-seat constituency.

Despite the strong political winds in its favor, the LDP suffered its own upsets.

Veteran Koichi Kato, who has held many Cabinet posts, lost to an independent newcomer in the Yamagata No. 3 single-seat district.

The 73-year-old politician was eying a 14th return to the Diet.

Kato was not on the list of LDP candidates in the proportional representation portion because the party prohibits those aged 73 or older from being eligible for those seats.

Kato appeared frail during the campaign, slurring words and looking unsteady on his feet.

"I am entirely to blame for the loss, including my own health management," Kato told his supporters at his campaign office around 11:40 p.m. after his defeat.

THE ASAHI SHIMBUN
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Makiko Tanaka, education minister from the Democratic Party of Japan, apologizes to her supporters for her defeat in the Lower House election in Nagaoka, Niigata Prefecture, on Dec. 16. (Kazuhiro Nagashima)

Makiko Tanaka, education minister from the Democratic Party of Japan, apologizes to her supporters for her defeat in the Lower House election in Nagaoka, Niigata Prefecture, on Dec. 16. (Kazuhiro Nagashima)

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  • Makiko Tanaka, education minister from the Democratic Party of Japan, apologizes to her supporters for her defeat in the Lower House election in Nagaoka, Niigata Prefecture, on Dec. 16. (Kazuhiro Nagashima)
  • Yoshito Sengoku, former chief Cabinet secretary from the DPJ, talks to his supporters after he lost in the Lower House election in Tokushima, Tokushima Prefecture, on Dec. 16. (Ryo Ikeda)
  • Yukiko Miyake of the Tomorrow Party of Japan talks about her loss in the Lower House election in Funabashi, Chiba Prefecture, on Dec. 16. (Shingo Kuzutani)
  • Koichi Kato, a veteran member of the main opposition Liberal Democratic Party, bows to his supporters after he was defeated in the Lower House election in Tsuruoka, Yamagata Prefecture, on Dec. 16. (Natsuki Edogawa)

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