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Japan Investment Bankers Favor Watanabe’s Your Party

Yoshimi Watanabe
A file photograph shows Yoshimi Watanabe, Japan's former financial services and admionistrative reform minister, speaking during an interview in Tokyo. Photographer: Haruyoshi Yamaguchi/Bloomberg

May 27 (Bloomberg) -- Japanese bankers and executives may vote for former Financial Services Minister Yoshimi Watanabe’s Minnano-To or “Your Party” in July’s Upper House election, as support for Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama’s Democratic Party of Japan wanes, according to a survey by BizReach Inc.

More than half of 1,318 investment bankers and executives surveyed by the Tokyo-based executive search firm said they may support the new party, which pledges to cut bureaucratic costs rather than increase taxes.

“Watanabe is former minister for the financial industry, and the party has a strong focus on economic policy,” BizReach Chief Executive Officer Soichiro Minami said in an interview in Tokyo yesterday. “That may be the reason it’s attractive to business executives.”

Your Party is among a growing number of small parties formed as politicians splinter from Japan’s Liberal Democratic Party, which lost control of Parliament in a landslide defeat last year after more than 50 years in power. Ex-Finance Minister and former LDP member Kaoru Yosano in April formed the Tachiagare Nippon or “Sunrise Party of Japan,” citing the LDP’s inability to capitalize on Hatoyama’s rising unpopularity.

About 70 percent of respondents to the survey said they don’t support the Hatoyama government because it lacks leadership. The LDP ranked second behind Your Party, followed by Yosano’s Sunrise Party, according to BizReach.

The survey was open 24,000 registered users of the executive search firm and conducted between May 10 and May 14.

Disapproval Rising

Hatoyama’s cabinet has an approval rating of 21 percent, down 4 percentage points from last month, the Asahi newspaper said on May 17. His disapproval rating rose 3 points to 64 percent. The prime minister’s missteps include misreporting campaign funds donated by his mother and his government’s failure to reach an agreement with the U.S. over where to relocate a Marine air base.

Watanabe’s Party has six members of Parliament, including himself and Keiichiro Asao, a former banker at Industrial Bank of Japan Ltd., a predecessor of Mizuho Financial Group Inc.

The party, formed last year, has 28 candidates running in July’s upper house election including Tsukasa Kobayashi, a former executive at Internet-retail website operator Rakuten Inc. and Kouta Matsuda, former president of Tully’s Coffee Japan Co., according to Your Party’s website.

Diminished Expectations

Kenji Nakanishi a former deputy president at JPMorgan Chase & Co.’s Japanese brokerage unit, has also joined the party in a race to represent Kanagawa prefecture, southwest of Tokyo. He left JPMorgan last year.

“I’ve been working in international finance for more than two decades and I’ve seen expectations for Japan diminish in recent years,” Nakanishi, 46, said in an interview. “I worry that not only people overseas, but Japanese people have a sense of resignation regarding the nation’s future. I want to defeat this stagnation.”

Recent departures have left the Liberal Democratic Party with 116 members in the lower house and 71 in the upper house. Hatoyama’s Democratic Party of Japan has 307 of the 480 seats in the lower house and 116 in the 242-seat upper chamber.

BizReach is a Japanese search firm targeting investment bankers and company executives earning annual salaries of more than 10 million yen ($110,000). Its members are given access to career information and networking opportunities.

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