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Home > Media Reiews > News Review Last Updated: 14:53 03/09/2007
News Review #121: April 15, 2003

Ishihara wins in landslide as gubernatorial elections close

Reviewed by Hitoshi URABE

"Ishihara wins in landslide as gubernatorial elections close"
(by Compiled from wire reports) JapanTimes

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The victory of Mr Ishihara as the continuing governor of Tokyo was certainly not surprising, to say the least. But the number was larger than many prior assessments. Mr Ishihara collected a whopping 70.2% of total valid ballots, surpassing the previous record set by Ryokichi Minobe back in 1971, at 64.8%.

Mr Ishihara has been a prominent figure in Japan for almost half a century since he won the prestigious Akutagawa Prize for his novel in 1955 while he was still in Hitotsubashi University. In 1968, already popular as a writer, he was elected to the House of Councillors by receiving the highest number of votes in the national constituency, commencing his career as a politician.

Perhaps less known, however, is a fact that he ran for the governorship of Tokyo in 1975 against incumbent Mr Minobe. Mr Minobe, strongly backed by the Socialist and Communist parties, was originally elected in 1967 amidst the global trend of 'peace' sentiment inspired by the Vietnam War. He was very, very popular in those times as indicated by the election results as referred to above. Mr Ishihara , though lost, actually fared well considering the disadvantageous environment, by collecting 2.3 million votes, short only by a margin of 0.3 million to beat Mr Minobe.

Mr Ishihara's image, especially seen from abroad, is often referred to with such expressions as, hawkish, right wing, and maverick. Many cite this as an indication for Japanese people to have begun to lean toward militarism. But it could be too naive to look at the results of a local election to find a political inclination of general public however large Tokyo is in terms of population and economic power. In fact, when the people effectively sacked Mr Minobe in 1979, it was not because of his political ideas but because he jeopardized the budget of the megalopolis through lavish spending and recording tremendous amounts of deficits throughout his tenure.

Mr Ishihara indeed has made numerous comments, utilizing his talent as a storyteller, which might be interpreted as hawkish at times. But in running the city, he has been significantly practical and effective in that manner. If he has gained popularity among the people in Tokyo, it was mainly through his track record as a governor pursuing interests of Tokyo, which would at times result in opposing national government's policies. His political ideas may need to be fully scrutinized when and if he wins a position to run the whole country, but in the mean time, people in Tokyo would want him as a good manager running one of the largest cities in the world having its own agenda, under the guidance of pragmatism, not totalism or militarism.

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