Raw Japan

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Unpopular PM to voters: “No-one’s perfect”

July 6, 2009

For the crowd waiting for Prime Minister Taro Aso to show up for a campaign speech in Ome on the western edge of Tokyo, it was a bit like watching the warm-up acts before the main attraction.

Aso picked ruling party candidate Akinobu Nomura’s home district of Ome  to kick off a campaign for the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly election, the results of which are likely to affect the unpopular 68-year-old premier’s chances of keeping his own job ahead of a nationwide poll expected next month.

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With the PM’s cavalcade stuck in traffic, Nomura and his other backers had to amuse the crowd for more than an hour under cloudy skies. The local man filled some of the time by inviting photographers to snap him shaking hands with his wife, who had earlier shyly delivered a speech, for what he said was the first time ever. Then he took to listing up his contributions to the local community.

Nomura  also went out of his way to assure listeners that he really appreciated Aso’s personal appearance — really! He’d been flooded with calls from reporters asking if he wouldn’t have preferred that Aso stay away, he said, before enjoining the media to report his next words faithfully: “I welcome Prime Minister Aso’s coming here from the bottom of my heart.” 

When a smiling, waving Aso finally showed up to the obvious relief of Nomura and others standing atop a green and white campaign truck, he first acknowledged that Ome was a long way from central Tokyo, where he spends most of his time. ”It really is far, isn’t it?” Aso said. ”But this feels better than being under a kind of house arrest in the prime minister’s official residence,” he added, prompting chuckles from some supporters.

Aso then launched into a speech touting the long-ruling LDP’s efforts to boost Japan’s sagging economy, attacking the opposition Democratic Party for inexperience, irresponsible promises and a funding scandal, and pleading with voters to stick with those they know rather than risk something new.

The LDP is lagging behind the Democrats in opinion polls ahead of the national vote, which must be held by October, and a poor showing for the party in the Tokyo election on July 12 could fuel moves inside the party to dump Aso before the general election.

“No one is perfect … It’s impossible to expect a human being to be 100 percent perfect. Human beings have good points and bad points. But if you ask who is better, isn’t it the person with experience?” Aso said.

Pitching his argument to the many women in the crowd, Aso added: ”If you think about yourself and your husband, lots of things have occurred in the past. But your husband has a 10- or 20-year record of achievements. It’s not so easy to change your name, and I don’t think one should change it.”

Some long-time supporters in the crowd, though, told me they were leaning towards that very change. “I have been an LDP supporter, but I feel that I can’t back them now. They’re too arrogant,” said retiree Masao Ida, who at 68 is the same age as Aso himself. “I want to see what comes from change,” Ida added.

Photo credit: REUTERS/Yuriko Nakao

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