TOKYO — Stealth is not generally a hallmark of politicians on campaign, but Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) has been keeping his movements secret as he hits the hustings ahead of the July 21 House of Councillors election.
As he is a House of Representatives lawmaker, Abe’s seat is not up for grabs this election, but he is campaigning for LDP upper house candidates.
Rather than publishing Abe’s public speaking schedule on its election website as normal, the LDP has adopted a “stealth strategy” to make sure he is not confronted with hecklers or protesters. However, campaign offices of individual candidates for the party inform the public ahead of time if Abe will be swooping in to make a speech on their behalf. That news tends to spread quickly on Twitter, creating something of a strategy mishmash.
Abe had arranged one such stealthy sidewalk campaign speech on the morning of July 7 in Tokyo’s Nakano Ward. Though not publicized on the party’s website, the campaign staff for the local LDP candidate had made up signs and leaflets advertising the prime minister’s appearance, and the information bounced around on Twitter. When he took the microphone to speak, he was confronted with some people in the crowd holding an “Abe NO!” banner, and chanting “Quit!” and “Go home!” Abe ignored the protesters and finished his speech.
Part of Abe’s schedule is provided to the news media, but not his plans for every day. According to a source close to the LDP, the tactic is “the idea of the prime minister’s office.”
Keeping part of Abe’s campaign schedule under wraps in fact began with the October 2017 general election. It was implemented after hecklers jeered at Abe during a July appearance in the capital’s Akihabara district. At the time the prime minister was campaigning for LDP candidates in the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly poll. In response to the calls of “Quit!” from some members of the crowd, Abe shouted, “We cannot lose to these kinds of people.” The scene of the prime minister losing his temper was reported on repeatedly in the ensuing days, and the incident proved a bitter political experience.
Akira Koike, head of the secretariat of the Japanese Communist Party, called the prime minister’s stealth schedule “pathetic.”
“He should take the jeers as yet another form of the voice of the people, and squarely assert his own platform,” Koike said.
(Japanese original by Nozomu Takeuchi and Kazuhiko Hori, Political News Department)