'Warlord' puts LDP to the sword: Local poll in Tokyo gives boost to Morohiro Hosokawa's Japan New Party

IN JAPAN'S newly fragmented political world, challengers to the power of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) are springing up like mushrooms. The latest is the Japan New Party (JNP) of Morohiro Hosokawa, which surprised many by winning 20 of 128 seats in elections in Tokyo on Sunday in the first electoral test of its 'political reform' message.

Mr Hosokawa, a colourful figure who likes to remind interviewers that he is descended from an ancient family of warlords, was delighted with the result, announcing that he would increase the number of candidates in the national elections. But his opponents have been calling his reformist credentials into question, pointing out that he has admitted links to the scandal-ridden Sagawa Kyubin company that felled Shin Kanemaru, the LDP godfather, last year.

The JNP, established last year but only now emerging into the light, joins two other new groups, the Shinsei party of Tsutomu Hata, and the smaller Sakigake party, all of which have split from the LDP to try to form conservative-oriented alternatives to the ruling party's 38 years in power. Mr Hosokawa has cleverly avoided committing himself to any coalition pact, hoping to increase his bargaining power between the other opposition parties and the Liberal Democrats after the poll.

The rise of these right-wing opposition parties, who will follow broadly similar economic, foreign and defence policies to those of the LDP, is likely to cut into support for the Socialist Party, the main opposition party up to now. In Sunday's vote the Socialists suffered a humiliating defeat, losing more than half of their 32 seats and gaining just 13 per cent of the vote, compared to 24 per cent in the last elections in 1989.

The Liberal Democratic Party also failed to do as well as it hoped in the local polls, which were closely followed for indications of how voters might react in the national elections in three weeks' time. Although the ruling party gained two seats for a total of 44, its share of the vote was 31 per cent, a disappointingly small improvement on a catastrophic showing in the last local polls in 1989.

But yesterday Mr Hosokawa was the focus of attention. 'To be honest, it is too good to be true,' he said, after the new party's 20 seats were announced. He said he now intended to field some 70 candidates for the general elections, 10 more than planned, and that his party would approach the vote 'with its sails filled with wind'.

Mr Hosokawa, 55, comes from a long line of feudal lords stretching back five centuries. His grandfather was one of Japan's wartime prime ministers, and his family wields immense power in his home town of Kumamoto, in southern Japan. After graduating from a Tokyo university with a law degree, he joined the Asahi newspaper, before being elected to the Upper House of parliament in 1971.

But power in Japanese politics often rests in the provinces, and in 1983 he returned to become a local hero: he ran for, and won, the post of governor of Kumamoto prefecture. After a conflict within the LDP over the next step in his career, he withdrew to set up the Japan New Party in the summer of 1992, jumping on the trendy 'political reform' bandwagon.

However, earlier this year he was forced to admit to a Japanese magazine that he had been receiving political donations from Sagawa Kyubin, a delivery company accused of political bribery and links with organised crime. In addition Sagawa lent him 100 million yen (pounds 600,000) to help him buy a house in Tokyo. And despite his public calls for more open politics, within his own party he treats his colleagues 'like feudal vassals', according to Tetsuhisa Matsuzaki, who recently left the JNP.

(Photograph omitted)

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Photographer / Floorplanner / Domestic Energy Assessor

£16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Photographer/ Floor planner /...

Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - Surrey - £40,000

£30000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - Guildford/Craw...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Assistant

£13500 - £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Customer Service Assistant is...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £35,000

£16000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An ambitious and motivated Sale...

Day In a Page

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence