Tue, Dec 18, 2012 - Page 6 News List

Defeat costs candidate funeral savings

AFP, TOKYO

Ryokichi Kawashima, right, a 94-year-old candidate in Japan’s general election, speaks to voters on Friday in the city of Hanyu in Japan’s Saitama prefecture.

Photo: AFP

A 94-year-old man who used his funeral savings to fund his parliamentary run in Japan’s election lost his ¥3 million (US$35,700) deposit, he told reporters yesterday. Ryokichi Kawashima was the oldest candidate in Sunday’s poll, but despite a spirited campaign that saw him pressing the flesh of people a fraction of his age, he fell short of the 10 percent of votes he needed.

“My grandfather used to tell me it’s shameful to get attached to money,” he said. “A samurai doesn’t cling to money no matter how hungry he gets.”

Kawashima had put down the deposit required of candidates running for office, money he had put aside to pay his funeral bills.

However, the 2,169 ballots he received were a long way from the tally he required in Saitama, north of Tokyo, and he forfeited the cash.

“I don’t care if I die in the forest near Mount Fuji and just turn into soil,” the nonagenarian said. “I ran in the election to prove my point.”

PUSH

The Liberal Democratic Party of Japan, led by hardline former Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe, swept to victory in Sunday’s polls, giving him a second chance to push his hawkish security agenda and reflate the economy.

Kawashima, a World War II veteran who spent four years on the frontline in China, told reporters ahead of the vote he was alarmed by the turn to the right Japan was taking.

His assessment yesterday was gloomy.

“It’s really frightening. Those in the new government must be ecstatic now, but I’m sure they won’t last long,” he said.

Sunday’s youngest candidate was Kazuya Aoki, a former aide to a member of parliament who turned 25 — the minimum age for a member of parliament — the day before voting. He also lost.

Japan is one of the world’s oldest countries, with almost one-quarter of its 128 million people over the age of 60. That figure is expected to rise to 40 percent within the next half-century.

The oldest lower house member now is Shintaro Ishihara, 80, a Beijing-biting author-turned-politician, while the youngest are three 28-year-old newcomers.

SKEWED

Commentators say the voter profile is heavily skewed — fewer than half of eligible voters in their 20s went to polling stations at the last election, compared with nearly 85 percent of electors aged in their 60s.

Only 38 women were elected to the lower house, representing less than 8 percent of the 480 seats, down more than 3 percentage points on the last parliament.

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