‘Jack Bauer’ versus ‘Macron’: the colourful candidates clashing in Japan’s election

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 19 October, 2017, 6:34pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 19 October, 2017, 6:34pm

From an opposition leader nicknamed “Jack Bauer” to a gaffe-prone finance minister who used Adolf Hitler as an example when talking about leaving a political legacy, there are some colourful characters competing in Japan’s election.

Yukio Edano

Edano, a former trade minister and leader of the new centre-left Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, won fame as chief cabinet secretary during the country’s 2011 tsunami disaster, briefing reporters every day, often at odd hours and earning respect for his work ethic.

A Twitter campaign at the time was set up to persuade him to get some rest, with people tweeting “Please Edano, go to bed” and some foreign media nicknaming him “Jack Bauer” – the lead character from the hit television drama series 24 – for working around the clock.

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Edano announced the launch of the new centre-left party just days before the election campaign officially started, unleashing an attack on Shinzo Abe and vowing to stop what he described as the prime minister’s “abuse of power”.

Taro Aso

Finance minister and deputy prime minister, Aso is known for a long list of gaffes and controversial remarks during a nearly four-decade career in parliament.

Earlier this year, the 77-year-old came under fire for citing Nazi leader Adolf Hitler in a bizarre reference about the importance of leaving a legacy in politics.

Aso – whose previous comments include criticising women who don’t have children and saying old people should “hurry up and die” to save health care costs – retracted the comments but refused to quit.

Last month he stirred controversy by saying Japan should seriously consider shooting down potential “armed refugees” if hundreds of thousands fled North Korea to Japan.

It was unclear what he meant by “armed refugees”.

Aso served as prime minister from 2008 to 2009 before his Liberal Democratic Party was ousted from office.

He is the grandson of Shigeru Yoshida, one of Japan’s most influential prime ministers who helped rebuild the country from the ashes of the second world war.

Shinjiro Koizumi

The telegenic and flamboyant Shinjiro Koizumi has drawn huge crowds to campaign rallies and has been suggested as a possible future leader.

Dubbed by some as “Japan’s Macron”, referring to France’s president, the 36-year-old has inherited the rhetorical skills of his father, the popular former leader Junichiro Koizumi.

Like his father, Koizumi Jnr has a reputation for “one-phrase politics”, using a snappy slogan that resonates with grass roots voters.

A sweet bearing his likeness is the second-biggest selling souvenir in the parliament gift shop – behind confectionery showing Abe’s face – said the shop’s manager Shinzo Terada.

They are “particularly popular among women”, he revealed.

Mayuko Toyota

The 43-year-old Harvard graduate was once seen as an up-and-coming member of the ruling LDP but resigned in June after an audio tape emerged of her violently attacking a male secretary, reportedly threatening to crush his head with a lead pipe.

She has decided to run as an independent in this election, sparking considerable media attention.

Every day, the very contrite Toyota goes to a railway station and bows deeply in apology to voters.

She has changed her image from a pink pantsuit – which earned her the nickname “pink monster” – to simple white and told supporters at a campaign rally that her heart was “on the verge of collapse” over the scandal.

Yuriko Koike

Even though she is not running for national office this time, the media-savvy veteran is definitely the story of the campaign, transforming the sleepy political landscape with her Party of Hope.

Posters of the popular Tokyo governor are everywhere and candidates for the party are pictured standing with the telegenic 65-year-old.

Her campaign video set the tone, with an elegant lady (presumably Koike) shoving her way past old men in suits and leading her supporters into the light.

But her momentum faltered after an initial burst of excitement as critics accused her of a dictatorial approach to managing her new party and she effectively split the opposition to Abe.