Tokyo Notes

Matter of Inheritance

So-called hereditary politicians in Japan are remarkable in their numbers.

Who could possibly have imagined it? The new Liberal Democratic Party candidate for the upper house seat relinquished this week by ailing LDP stalwart Mikio Aoki will be none other than his own son.
While there are political dynasties to some extent in every country, the so-called hereditary politicians in Japan are remarkable in their numbers. According to Japan’s biggest daily, the Yomiuri Shimbun, a third of the LDP’s lower house members in the previous Diet ‘inherited’ their seats from close relatives. It’s this kind of pattern that has long given Japanese politics the impression of being more about connections than policy and about learning the established ropes rather than challenging them.

Although Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama is himself from one of Japan’s most famous political families, his Democratic Party of Japan has a far lower incidence of ‘inheriting’ seats and one of its election pledges last year was to ban the practice. But the DPJ already has its hands full tackling the difficulties of fulfilling its other election pledges and the seat inheritance issue seems to have been put on the back burner.

But when Kazuhiko Aoki was selected as the LDP’s candidate for his father’s seat in Shimane Prefecture, the complaints came from within the local LDP chapter, according to western Japan’s Chugoku Shimbun daily. While a lack of time was cited by senior local party members in opting for Aoki Jr., other members reportedly suggested that the decision was symbolic of an LDP that was failing to reinvent itself.

A fair comment indeed.