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HOME  > Past issues  > 2019 April 24 - May 7  > Pro-constitutionalism forces unite around ex-JCP Lower House member in Osaka by-election
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2019 April 24 - May 7 TOP3 [POLITICS]

Pro-constitutionalism forces unite around ex-JCP Lower House member in Osaka by-election

April 25, 2019

In the April 21 House of Representatives Osaka No.12 district by-election, former Japanese Communist Party Lower House member Miyamoto Takeshi ran as an independent candidate backed jointly by anti-Abe opposition parties and concerned citizens, putting up a good fight. Although he was unsuccessful in winning a seat, his fight left a “fortune” which will contribute to further development of joint struggles of opposition parties and concerned citizens. What is this fortune?

Encouraged by Miyamoto’s determination

“The Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan was established amid a growing call via social media on Edano Yukio (current CDPJ leader) to lead opposition/citizens joint efforts. In the latest by-election, motivated by Miyamoto’s determination to become a joint opposition candidate along with all anti-Abe opposition parties, more than 1,000 volunteers rallied around Miyamoto to support his campaign. This literally represented our slogan, ‘Join us’,” said Ide Minoru of a civil organization, the Tokyo Democracy Crew.

The House of Representatives by-election in the Osaka No.12 constituency was called following the death of incumbent Liberal Democratic Party lawmaker Kitagawa Tomokatsu (former deputy environment minister). The LDP characterized the election as a must-win battle for the memory of the late Kitagawa and decided to back up his nephew, Kitagawa Shinpei, as the party candidate. The Osaka-based rightwing political party “Nippon Ishin no Kai” as its candidate chose Fujita Fumitake who received 40% of the votes in the 2017 general election. In addition, independent Tarutoko Shinji (former Internal Affairs Minister), who is a well-known politician in the Osaka No.12 constituency, announced his candidacy. These three strong candidates got themselves ready for the official kick-off of the by-election campaign.

Under these circumstances, Miyamoto declared his candidacy on March 31, just nine days before the official campaign period began, by saying that he made the decision to run because he sees the election as the key to opposition parties’ collaboration aimed at firing the starting shot for putting an end to the Abe politics with the opposition-citizens unified struggle. An Osaka civil group leader, who visited Miyamoto’s campaign office every day, said, “Encouraged by Miyamoto’s decision, I decided to work with other volunteers.” A man living in Mie Prefecture made a day trip to Osaka many times to volunteer as campaign staff. He said, “I thought, the by-election would be a fight just between the three candidates of anti-constitutionalism forces. However, Miyamoto decided to run as an independent candidate, which offered us the opportunity to get our voices heard. We are the ones who should be thanking Miyamoto.”

One of the founders of the Civil Alliance and the former president of the Science Council of Japan, Hirowatari Seigo, visited Osaka to support Miyamoto on the day when the election campaign officially started. He said, “Miyamoto’s candidacy has made it possible for us to call on voters to come together under the banner of a joint struggle of opposition parties and concerned citizens.” As Hirowatari stated, Miyamoto’s decision gave voters the option of promoting the cause for joint efforts in the election.

Leaders of all opposition parties visit Miyamoto’s campaign office

“Unbelievable! Mr. Edano and Mr. Tamaki came to this office!” a man in his 20s gleefully stated on April 19 when he heard that CDPJ leader Edano Yukio and Democratic Party for the People (DPFP) head Tamaki Yuichiro visited Miyamoto’s campaign office on April 15 and 18, respectively. The young man learned this fact after saying to a campaign staffer, “I think Miyamoto’s platform is good, but the cooperation among opposition parties seems to have made little progress.”

On the night of April 8, Liberal Party leader Ozawa Ichiro, JCP Chair Shii Kazuo, former member of the House of Representatives Hattori Ryoichi who heads the prefectural body of the Social Democratic Party, and CDPJ member of the Lower House Murakami Fumiyoshi visited Miyamoto’s campaign office. Leaders of major opposition parties took the trouble to go to Osaka in support of Miyamoto, which represents a visible advance in the collaboration between opposition parties.

In Miyamoto’s kick-off rally on April 9, members of the Civil Alliance and Dietmembers of five opposition parties, including the DPFP, gave speeches, saying, “It is an unprecedented election race in postwar history” and called for support for Miyamoto. A total of 49 people who are or were parliamentarians from six opposition parties came to the Osaka No.12 district to gain voter support for Miyamoto. They included those who had worked together with Miyamoto in the Diet to find out the truth behind the favoritism scandal involving the Osaka-based school corporation Moritomo Gakuen. These opposition party lawmakers and concerned citizens jointly held many street speeches.

Wide range of citizens join hands

Day after day during the election campaign, citizens from across the country gathered at Miyamoto’s campaign office in Osaka’s Neyagawa City to work as volunteer staff, saying, “Miyamoto’s candidacy opened up the prospect for opposition parties-concerned citizens collaboration in this summer’s House of Councilors election.” The number of volunteers exceeded 1,000. An additional 300 people worked for Miyamoto at offices of the Civil Alliance in the neighboring cities of Shijonawate and Daito. Miyamoto’s campaign staff, wearing yellow jackets and carrying flags, were seen everywhere on the streets of the three cities.

A wide range of citizens responded to Miyamoto’s call for cooperation, putting forward creative ideas in regard to campaign efforts on the streets and via social media. In a volunteers' room, members of the LP, the SDP, and the JCP discussed politics together despite differences in their political beliefs. A member of the CDPJ partners project presented the volunteers with a very big banner saying, "Return to democracy."

Unity under common manifesto

The JCP, LP, and SDP prefectural committees worked out an election manifesto together for Miyamoto and jointly held a press conference to announce this manifesto. His campaign pledges included cancellation of the planned increase in the consumption tax rate to 10% in October; opposition to constitutional revision by the Abe government; allowing no more lies or conjectures by bureaucrats to favor influential politicians; placing priority on childrearing over a casino-centric IR project; improvements in education programs; and reinforcement of disaster prevention measures. Watanabe Yoshihiko, chief of the LP Osaka prefectural chapter and former Lower House lawmaker, said, "We were proud of this electoral platform which everyone can agree with."

Many volunteer campaigners said, "We unite with each other to spread a message of politics filled with hope." Responding to this momentum, Miyamaoto in the middle of the campaign changed his election address. In areas where many colleges are located, he talked extensively about "a future with hope". Very frequently, students surrounded Miyamoto and talked about high tuition and scholarship payments. An Osaka Electro-Communication University student said he was so impressed by Miyamoto stressing the need for tuition-free higher education that he came to listen to Miyamoto's street speeches many times and asked Miyamoto to come to his campus not only at lunchtime but also at going-home time. Looking back on that moment, Miyamoto said, "My campaign pledges were becoming everybody's commitment. They themselves made an appeal to voters. Thus, a new move emerged in the joint struggle. They shared my campaign pledges and banded together to come up with a new type of politics."

Only through struggle can change come

On the evening of April 21 when the majority of election results was shown, an "Ishin no Kai" candidate won and Miyamoto lost this election. He held a press conference and said, "I did my best under the given conditions. It was also very impressive to witness firsthand that as cooperation among opposition parties increased day by day, their ties with each other became stronger." He said this with a smile and received a loud round of applause from supporters and representatives of opposition parties.

Voters who watched Internet videos of this scene left Miyamoto a lot of messages, including, "I've never seen such a refreshing concession speech," "Thank you for the hope you gave," and "From here joint efforts by opposition parties will continue anew."

Miyamoto said in the press conference, "In the great battles fought throughout history, none of began with a good chance of winning assured. Only through struggle can change come." His 3-week election battle brought this sentiment into stark relief.

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> Anti-base ‘All Okinawa’ candidate beats LDP rival in Lower House by-election [April 22, 2019]
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