Japan's opposition touts fresh faces in bid for election victory
The Democratic Party of Japan has promoted women and younger candidates who have not risen through traditional routes to power.
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Also in the firing line nowadays are the so-called "hereditary politicians," scions of political families who have controlled their constituencies for generations. They have lost some of their luster since the past three Japanese prime ministers, all regarded as failures, came from such political families.Skip to next paragraph
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So will the next one, in fact, suggesting that the tradition is by no means dead. DPJ leader Yukio Hatoyama's grandfather took over as prime minister from LDP leader Taro Aso's grandfather in 1954, just as Mr. Hatoyama hopes to take over from Mr. Aso next week.
But this election has brought a new sort of politician to the fore, candidates who have nothing to do with the three traditional sources of Japanese parliamentary contenders – the civil service, the labor unions, and the hereditary families.
"We are getting a lot of response, especially from young people," says Kushibuchi. "It's unprecedented."
She is not the only new DPJ politician to try to shake young Japanese voters out of their traditional apathy.
Zenko Kurishita, a US-educated, 26-year-old salesman for Oracle, stood for election to the Tokyo city government last month because "I think young people themselves can change the situation," he says, "and I want to get people like me more interested."
The power of that message, and the scale of voters' disaffection with the ruling LDP, showed in the municipal election results. The untested Mr. Kurishita announced his bid to unseat the six-term LDP incumbent only nine days before the vote. He won.
"We may not have experience of politics," he says of his cohorts now entering national political life, "and that is a weak point. But it is also a strong point, because we see things through citizens' eyes."
That link with ordinary voters, often lacking in traditional LDP politicians, is something that Kushibuchi, too, sees as key. One of the things about her that goes over well with voters, she says, is that she worked for 17 years for a nongovernmental organization involved in peace and development education.
"I'm part of a new civil society," she says, "and civil society groups always work with the people."
"A new breed is entering the political world and they will change the Japanese political system," predicts Mr. Tsuchiya, whose institute trains young people hoping for a career in politics. "That will be good for Japan."
•Takehiko Kambayashi contributed reporting to this article.
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