The Rise and Fall of Populist Mobilization: The Urban Populist Movement in Nagoya, Japan

Tuesday, 17 July 2018: 11:10
Oral Presentation
Yusuke KIDA, Sugiyama Jogakuen University, Japan
Political mobilization is a difficult task in the age of “post-democracy” (Crouch 2003). Populism, that is, populist mobilization (Jansen 2011), is a solution for political mobilization, although it has been criticized from a normative point of view. Populist politicians try to lead people to act collectively to support them (Mudde & Kaltwasser 2017). Cities in Japan are no exception to populism. This paper analyzes a populist movement in Nagoya, which is the third-largest city in Japan. It indicates how a populist movement rises and falls in a contemporary city.

Takashi Kawamura has served as mayor of Nagoya since 2009. His political belief is in local economic prosperity through a tax cut. He often criticizes “too professionalized” corrupt politics and calls for political reform for “ordinary” and “amateur” people using mass media. He organized a recall campaign against the city council in the summer of 2010. In the recall referendum of 2011, 73.35% of the voters approved the recall. In this process, he established a local party, Genzei Nippon (Tax Cut Japan (TCJ)). However, TCJ failed to get a majority in the city assembly election of 2011. Furthermore, TCJ members met with severe criticism because of their political scandals.

According to a quantitative data analysis using the logistic regression model, participation in the recall campaign strongly encouraged people to vote “yes” in the referendum. This indicates that not only media power but also direct participation is important for populist mobilization. However, another analysis shows that the participation increases support for TCJ only slightly. In sum, Kawamura succeeded in his personal leadership and the recall movement but failed to give power to his party. The populist movement is explosive, but it is so short-lived because of the difficulty of continuously organizing city dwellers.