Odd Candidates Spruce Up Japan Elections

There's Peru's former dictator, Albert Fujimori; and Yuko Tojo, whose grandfather ordered Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor; and the inventor who calls himself Dr. Nakamats and claims he knows how to turn North Korean missiles around in midair.

Odd Candidates Spruce Up Japan Elections
Japan's national elections Sunday feature some unlikely candidates.

It's not that the ballot is in any way a frivolous affair. Battered by funding scandals and a huge pensions blunder, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's government will be fighting to hold onto its slim majority in parliament's upper house. Defeat could prompt calls for Abe to resign.

But plenty of wannabes are sharing the campaign spotlight with Abe.

ZAKI -- a wandering musician and peace activist who writes his name that way in Latin characters -- has resorted to unconventional tactics to woo voters: impromptu rock performances on the streets of Tokyo.

"I've long campaigned against evil government policies from outside the system. Now I want in!" a guitar-wielding ZAKI, whose real name is Masatoshi Nozaki, shouted to a crowd in the shopping district of Shibuya last week between performances that slammed the prime minister's nationalist agenda.

In part, the shift toward more outlandish candidates is due to media-savvy former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, who drew celebrity candidates from entertainment, academia and business to push his reformist agenda in the 2005 elections.

Koizumi's star-studded lineup whipped up a media frenzy, helping him return a huge majority to parliament's lower house.

Now, disappointed by Abe's much duller style of politics -- and incensed by a series of scandals enveloping his Cabinet -- celebrities are coming forward to push for change.

Dr. Nakamats says Japan should draw on its technological prowess to better protect itself from its missile-wielding neighbor, North Korea.

"North Korea is one day going to launch a missile attack. But Japan has no plan for when that happens," the popular inventor warned during a campaign stop in Tokyo last week. "I have an idea for a device that could turn missiles round 180 degrees in midair."

Yuko Tojo, the granddaughter of the executed wartime leader Gen. Hideki Tojo, has an equally ambitious plan for defending Japan: scrapping its pacifist constitution and developing a full-fledged military. She says she often prays at a Tokyo war shrine for Japan's fallen soldiers, including her grandfather, who ordered the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor and was hanged for war crimes after World War II.

Abe himself has enlisted several well-known figures to bolster his run at the polls amid sliding popularity ratings. Among those running on the ruling Liberal Democratic Party ticket are Tamayo Marukawa, a former newscaster on a national TV network, and Kazuya Maruyama, a TV personality with provocative views on women and booze.

The main opposition Democratic Party of Japan has countered with Yoshio Yokomine, the popular father and caddy of Japanese golf sensation Sakura Yokomine, and Keiichi Nagasaki, a former baseball player.

Some would-be celebrity politicians are hampered by a ban on campaigning where they are most popular: cyberspace.

During the official election campaign period, a candidate may distribute only 35,000 postcards and 70,000 leaflets and is effectively prevented from using the Internet and e-mail to disseminate images.

The stringent regulations have proven most problematic for another unlikely candidate, former President Fujimori.

Under house arrest in Chile, Fujimori, who is of Japanese descent and citizenship, can't even travel to meet voters face to face -- and has resorted to campaigning through his Japanese wife, Satomi Kataoka.

"He is trying something new," she said. "I think we can create a new history."

AP
Güncelleme Tarihi: 28 Temmuz 2007, 20:28
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