Japanese Nationalism

Henry C.K. Liu hliu at mindspring.com
Sun Apr 11 23:05:26 PDT 1999

Monday April 12 1999


Nationalist wins racefor governor

REUTERS in Tokyo

An outspoken nationalist known for his

anti-American views won a heated race for the

governorship of Tokyo yesterday, posing a

potential headache for Prime Minister Keizo


Television networks said Shintaro Ishihara, a

former ruling party lawmaker running as an

independent, was set to win 30 per cent of the

votes cast.

That is well above the 25 per cent minimum

needed to clinch the governorship and more

than 10 percentage points ahead of his nearest

rival in the record 19-candidate race.

Mr Ishihara campaigned on the slogan of "The

Tokyo That Can Say No", echoing his 1989

book that called for Japan to adopt a more

independent foreign policy.

But some analysts said voters backing Mr

Ishihara liked his promises to stand up to those

in power and were more worried about the

economy than nationalism.

"It doesn't mean they are nationalist but that

they are fed up with political stalemate and

prefer someone who can talk straight," said

Shigenori Okazaki, a political analyst at

Warburg Dillon Read.

In his victory speech, Mr Ishihara said he

would not pick needless fights with the central

Government but he could not resist a shot at

mainstream politicians.

"What I realised during the campaign was that

the established parties have no value, and

that's what the people felt," he said.

Mr Ishihara, known for his impatience with

Japan's defence reliance on America, wants to

take back the US military's Yokota Air Base in

Tokyo and turn it into an international airport.

Yokota is one of the largest US air bases in


"If the United States considers Japan an equal

partner, they should listen carefully to my

view," he said.

The prize-winning author has also irritated

China with his penchant for calling it "Shina",

a term with overtones of wartime Japanese

imperialism, and by saying he does not trust


The Ishihara victory - which left Obuchi

candidate Yasushi Akashi far behind - bodes ill

for some top executives of the ruling Liberal

Democratic Party.

It may also fan factional fights ahead of an

election for the party presidency - now held by

Mr Obuchi - which is set for September.

Some in the party want a summer election that

would hand the Prime Minister another year in

power without a bruising contest.

But analysts said that the fate of Mr Obuchi's

Government was more likely to hinge on

economic developments.

"Obuchi's popularity is rising, but we need to

watch carefully how stable his administration

is," Mr Okazaki said.

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