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Home > Media Reiews > News Review Last Updated: 14:52 03/09/2007
News Review #19: April 4, 2002

Independent Elected Mayor of Yokohama

Reviewed By Hitoshi URABE

"Independent Elected Mayor of Yokohama"
By REUTERS, The New York Times

It is natural for people to search for reasons when unexpected happen. Last weekend, at the election to choose the mayor of Yokohama, a 37 year-old rookie without support from any of the political parties won against a 72 year-old veteran, who had already served as a mayor for 3 consecutive terms totaling 12 years, and had received official support of virtually all the major parties, including LDP and SDP.

Many had predicted that the race was an easy win for the veteran, and people began searching for the cause of their wrong forecast. The article cited here adopts the opinion that people were disgusted by all the recent scandals revealed, involving both the ruling LDP and an opposing SDP, and avoided voting for someone who has any ties with conventional political parties.

Another reason suggested is that people became weary of the same person holding an office so long.

It was in late 19th century when Lord Acton warned that "power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely." The U.S. had apparently known it instinctively since its inception, and had customarily limited the President to hold office for only two terms until F.D.Roosevelt broke the tradition. Then they quickly amended the Constitution to unambiguously ban a person to hold onto the power too long.

Since then, the idea was adopted in many legal frameworks around the world. In Japan, because the political system is different from U.S., having its own parliamentary system, the sort of restriction was not implemented. In reality, Japan had 13 prime ministers in the past 20 years, which seems to raise the question of instability rather than concentration of power. But the story at local levels differs from the national level. There are quite a number of governors and mayors who have held the offices for 20 or more years.

We may have a little more information on what people are really looking for over this weekend, when the election for the governor of Kyoto prefecture will be held. All the candidates are new, but one was a former deputy governor who claims to succeed the policies of the former governor, with full backing from all the major political parties. Combined with the fact that a viable opponent is supported by the Communist Party would make the picture somewhat different compared to the case of Yokohama, however.

Another aspect to watch is the voting rate, which was 39.35% in Yokohama, seemingly low but significantly better than the previous figure of 34.11%. Not very many analyses have come out on these numbers yet, but it might be interesting if a trend could be observed in a sequence of local and regional elections including the ones coming up toward the end of the month.

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