Sunday, April 10, 2011

Kyodo News: Ishihara wins fourth term in Tokyo.

 Turnout sags as disaster casts pall over string of local elections.

 Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara was returned Sunday for a fourth four-year term, while fellow incumbent Harumi Takahashi, who was also backed by the opposition Liberal Democratic Party, was re-elected to a third term in Hokkaido, early vote counts and media projections showed.

                                                                                                           KYODO PHOTO
Shintaro Ishihara


 The gubernatorial races were just two of a slew of local elections that were held across Japan the same day.
 In other gubernatorial elections Sunday, incumbents Issei Nishikawa in Fukui, Shinji Hirai in Tottori, Zembei Mizoguchi in Shimane, Kamon Iizumi in Tokushima, Yasushi Furukawa in Saga, and Katsusada Hirose in Oita also won, early vote counts showed.  
 Yuji Kuroiwa was assured of being Kanagawa governor after triumphing over four newcomers, while Hiroshi Ogawa appeared to be another rookie headed for victory after early results projected him as the winner in Fukuoka.
 Exit polls elsewhere showed that close contests for other gubernatorial seats were being fiercely contested in Mie and Nara prefectures.

                                                                                                                  KYODO PHOTO
Bested: Hideo Higashikokubaru gestures as he talks about his defeat in Sunday's Tokyo gubernatorial race at his campaign office in Shinjuku.

                                                                                                                  KYODO PHOTO
Signs of fatigue mark the face of Miki Watanabe as he concedes at his office in Chuo Ward.

 In Tokyo, Ishihara, 78, faced contenders including former Miyazaki Gov. Hideo Higashikokubaru and Miki Watanabe, founder of a major pub chain, and Akira Koike, chief policymaker of the Japanese Communist Party.
 Ishihara gained much of his backing based strictly on experience. With three consecutive terms under his belt, voters clearly expected the veteran leader to play a major role in dealing with the country's worst postwar crisis.
 Referring to the disasters, including the ongoing nuclear crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 power plant, Ishihara said he would move to draft disaster-prevention measures in Tokyo over the next four years, while sticking to the policies he has followed for the past 12 years.
 "Tokyo is the 'dynamo' of Japan, so if Tokyo is mired in confusion, the state will be also mired in confusion," Ishihara said after news outlets projected him as the winner.
 He also repeated his eagerness to provide support to quake- and tsunami-hit areas.
 "We'll do whatever we can," he said, "and we'll even do what people in the afflicted areas think Tokyo is not required to do."
 The string of local elections was the first major test for the ruling Democratic Party of Japan since it lost the Upper House election last summer.
 The races included balloting for four city mayors and the assembly members of 41 prefectures and 15 of the nation's biggest cities, in the first of two unified rounds of regional polls slated this month.
 The crises triggered by the magnitude 9.0 earthquake off Tohoku meanwhile cast a deep pall over Sunday's polls.
 Candidates shied away from vigorous campaigning and adhered to the public's widespread mood of self-restraint in light of the 27,000 people killed or left unaccounted for by the quake and tsunami and those displaced by the unfolding crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.
 The agenda for the elections was expected to revolve around such issues as revitalization of local economies and the devolution of power from the central government, although experts were expecting showdowns to emerge between the DPJ and the conservative LDP and were keen to see how emerging political parties at the local level would perform.
 But much of the attention has apparently shifted to national policy on disaster relief and nuclear energy, reflecting the magnitude of the events that have forced local officials to take unusual steps to cope with massive hardships.
 Polling was put off in hardest-hit Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures, while the election board in the city of Urayasu, Chiba Prefecture, refused to accept votes for prefectural assembly candidates Sunday to concentrate on repairs from liquefaction damage caused by the quake.
 The outcomes of the elections could affect the future of Prime Minister Naoto Kan, whose inexperienced DPJ swept to power in the August 2009 general election only to suffer a stinging setback in the House of Councilors election last July. The DPJ is the first opposition party to take full control of the government in over five decades.
 On Sunday, voting for governorships took place in Hokkaido, Kanagawa, Tokyo, Fukui, Mie, Nara, Tottori, Shimane, Tokushima, Fukuoka, Saga and Oita prefectures, with nine incumbents and 30 newcomers running.
 Of the 12 gubernatorial races, the DPJ and LDP squared off only in Tokyo, Hokkaido and Mie Prefecture.
Ishihara was backed by the LDP and New Komeito. Watanabe was supported by the DPJ's contingent in the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly.
 Political observers said swing voters would probably hold the key in many of the gubernatorial races, particularly at a time when public interest in the elections appears to be wavering amid the crises.



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