Wednesday, July 25, 2007
By Steven L. Taylor

Via the CSM: Still wanted in Peru, Alberto Fujimori runs for office in Japan

For most politicians, fame is an asset. But it’s yet to be seen whether it will help Alberto Kenya Fujimori win a seat in Japan’s Upper House on Sunday.

In regards to this elect and the utility of fame, I would refer the gentle reader to Fruits and Votes:

The upper house in Japan, the House of Councillors, is elected partly by nominal voting (specifically, SNTV), and partly by a national tier which uses open-list PR (in which voters write either the name of their political party of choice or the name of a candidate on a party list). So there is most certainly a premium on running well known candidates–in both tiers. And Fujimori, the son of Japanese-born parents who emigrated to Peru, is certainly well known in Japan. He is being considered as a candidate in Tokyo’s four-seat electoral district, in which voters choose one candidate (i.e. the nominal tier), although the possibility of his being a candidate in the national open-list tier is also not ruled out.

Of course, the whole situation is rather bizarre:

Mr. Fujimori reserves the distinction of being Japan’s only Upper House candidate to conduct his campaign while under house arrest. He is the only candidate to have previously been elected president of a foreign nation. He is also the only aspiring member of the Upper House to have been indicted on more than 20 counts of corruption and human rights violations, including sanctioning death squads – charges he denies.

Fujimori was arrested in Chile in 2005, where he still lives under house arrest, awaiting extradition to Peru, the country he ruled from 1990 to 2000.

His critics accuse him of running for office in Japan to avoid his outstanding charges in Peru, but many Japanese voters don’t even know he’s running.

That last question is pretty easy to answer: he is trying to save his bacon, as he is hoping that membership in the Japanese legislature may forestall the Chileans from sending him to Peru to face prosecution:

For his part, Fujimori is hoping the government of Japan influences Chile for his release. As election day approaches, Fujimori’s celebrity pals such as Dewi Sukarno, former wife of Indonesian President Sukarno, are campaigning for him, calling Fujimori the “Last Samurai.”

And can their be an doubt that the man is a politician (and not in the best sense of the word)?

As a direct message to voters, Fujimori delivers a short speech on his website in not-so-smooth Japanese from what looks like the backyard of a sunny villa.

With a relaxed smile, he says: “I will vow to fight for … the country of the samurai with my life.”

This is incredibly reminiscent of when Fujimori needed to build national support in Peru and made very public identifications with Peruvian peasants of indigenous descent, appearing at campaign events in peasant garb.

Indeed, here’s a photo of the Samurai when he was still campaigning in Peru in 2000 in full indigenous regalia:

Source: PBS

Here’s another shot of Fujimori in typical indigenous Peruvian peasant garb at what looks like a campaign rally:

As to why he might actually have a chance, it is worth remembering (and it is something I had forgotten myself) that the Japanese embassy in Peru (along with the ambassador, and hundreds attending a party at the time) was seized in 1997 for 126 days by the Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement and many Japanese credit Fujimori with a positive outcome in that crisis (via the Financial Times last month):

Mr Fujimori, who told the FT in a 2005 interview in Tokyo that charges against him were trumped up, has some loyal political friends in Japan. They are grateful for what they regard as his resolute leadership in ending a 126-day hostage crisis at the Japanese ambassador’s Lima residence in 1997. Mr Fujimori claims to have personally planned the storming of the building, including the digging of tunnels beneath the ambassadorial compound.

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7 Responses to “Alberto Fujimori: The “Last Samurai””

  1. MSS Says:

    Typically, an American paper (and one of the better ones, no less) fails to inform as to how Fujimori would be elected. As the quote from me (thanks for that, of course, I am so quotable) notes, there are two tiers to the Japanese upper house (as is the case with the lower). And even the list tier of the upper house has a candidate-preference vote (unlike in the lower).

    While I am fairly certain he’d fail to win the nominal race in a district, his celebrity could attract some protest votes to the national list of such a small party, if that is where he is running. In fact, if the party is not actually serious about getting him elected, but just wanted the publicity, he’s running in the constituency race. If, on the other hand, this is a deal to get both national attention for the PNP and to get him immunity (as has been alleged), then he’s on the list. Not that the latter would guarantee him election, of course, given that it is the PNP’s voters who will determine the rank on the (open) list.

    A little time on news searches did not turn up the answer as to which tier he is running in.

  2. Dr. Steven Taylor Says:

    American papers are horrible about dealing with electoral rules. Indeed, they usually write such stories as if the whole world elects legislatures the same way the US does.

  3. Fruits and Votes Says:

    Japan’s upper house election: Fujimori is running on the PNP list

    Fujimori is running on the national list. The list is open, so presumably the party has determined that his celebrity might bring a few extra votes to the party.

  4. MSS Says:

    Yeah, reading the LAT, one might get the impression that there was actually an electoral system called “complex form of proportional representation.”

    I can’t say for sure, but I think I read that phrase once years ago about an Israeli election. (I know I have read it about many a PR election over the years.) I mean, what is so complex about getting a share of 120 seats that almost exactly the same as your share of national votes, as is the case in Israel? Seems pretty simple to me.

    But then nothing is less complex than the American political process. Sure thing. And every American can tell you all the details of beautifully simple rules like the presidential primaries and the electoral college and all the other US electoral systems that the whole world would like to emulate.

  5. PoliBlog ™: A Rough Draft of my Thoughts » Ruling LDP Suffers “Utter Defeat” in Japanese Upper House Elections Says:

    [...] word at this point on the fate of the Last Samurai. Sphere: Related Content Filed under: Elections, Asia || [...]

  6. PoliBlog ™: A Rough Draft of my Thoughts » No Seat for the Last Samurai Says:

    [...] This was the expected outcome. A shame, as I think this is the last time I can refer to Fujimori as the Last Samurai (a designation I find rather amusing, although I will allow that I may be the only one thus amused). [...]

  7. PoliBlog ™: A Rough Draft of my Thoughts » No Seat for the Last Samurai Says:

    [...] This was the expected outcome. A shame, as I think this is the last time I can refer to Fujimori as the Last Samurai (a designation I find rather amusing, although I will allow that I may be the only one thus amused). [...]

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