OSAKA – With one of the world’s largest clusters of nuclear plants just some 60 km to the north, the Fukushima crisis is looking to be a major campaign issue in Kyoto’s Feb. 5 mayoral election.
But even though most Kyoto voters are not affiliated with a major party, the kind of voter revolt against established parties that Osaka saw in November is not expected in a campaign that pits a candidate backed by all of the non-Communist parties against the Japanese Communist Party contender.
Incumbent Daisaku Kadokawa, 61, backed by all major ruling and opposition parties, is seeking a second term. Challenger Kazuo Nakamaura, 57, who ran against Kadokawa in 2008 and lost by only 951 votes, is supported by the JCP.
Both Kadokawa and Nakamura have expressed concern over the safety of the many nuclear reactors arrayed along the Fukui Prefecture coast, but their approaches differ.
Kadokawa is pushing for the city of Kyoto to gradually switch to renewable energy sources, while Nakamura has made ending the reliance on nuclear power a central part of his campaign.
“There are 14 nuclear reactors on the Sea of Japan coast, in Fukui Prefecture. They’re only about 60 km from Kyoto, and only about 30 km from the edge of Lake Biwa, the water Kyoto drinks from every day,” Nakamura said at a campaign rally Sunday.
There is heightened concern in Kyoto over what could transpire if Kansai Electric Power Co.’s Oi nuclear plant or other reactor complexes in Fukui suffer an accident. Kepco last year completed government-ordered stress tests on the Oi plant’s reactor 3, paving the way for its restart within the next couple of months.
“Preparations are being made to restart the Oi reactor even though the true cause of the Fukushima accident is still unclear,” actor and antinuclear activist Taro Yamamoto said at Sunday’s rally for Nakamura.
While voters are concerned about the Fukui plants, and even though Kadokawa narrowly won the 2008 election, local media polls last week showed he has a comfortable lead over Nakamura.
The mayor has been campaigning on his record of revitalizing Kyoto through projects like remodeling the subway system and sprucing up the city for tourists.
Kadokawa and Nakamura have dismissed speculation of a “Hashimoto effect” on the election, saying Osaka’s double elections in November, where the mayoral election was won by former Gov. Toru Hashimoto and the governor’s election by his hand-picked successor, Ichiro Matsui, was due to political conditions in Osaka that differ from Kyoto’s.
“Established political parties are strong in Kyoto, so there won’t be a Hashimoto effect. The city of Kyoto and Kyoto Prefecture combine their policies to eliminate bureaucratic redundancy in a more cooperative way that is different from Osaka’s,” Kadokawa told supporters earlier this year.