OTSU, SHIGA PREF. – As Nippon Mirai no To (Tomorrow Party of Japan) leader Yukiko Kada tours Japan drumming up support for her new group’s candidates in the Dec. 16 election, she is facing a growing backlash in Shiga Prefecture, where she’s the governor.
Political opponents, especially in the Liberal Democratic Party — which controls 25 of the 46 prefectural assembly seats in Shiga — are threatening to block Kada’s local initiatives and are discussing lawsuits, while even her closest political supporters say she made a mistake by joining hands with Ichiro Ozawa, a former president of the ruling Democratic Party of Japan.
Forming Nippon Mirai could well end up costing her in Shiga’s 2014 gubernatorial election.
“If you’re going to continue as both governor and head of Nippon Mirai, Shiga voters will think that you’re running the prefecture in your spare time,” LDP prefectural assembly member Haruo Miura said in reference to Kada during an assembly meeting earlier this week.
Miura added that Kada herself had said in the past that it would be a bad idea for a local government head to also front a national party because of the logistical problems involved, and called on her to clarify how she proposes to do both jobs.
Meanwhile, Hikone Mayor Koyo Shishiyama filed a complaint Thursday with prefectural authorities that would freeze Kada’s salary, and said he is discussing a civil lawsuit against her if the move fails.
“There’s no reason to use tax money from prefectural residents to pay Kada’s salary when she’s undertaking election activities in her role as Nippon Mirai chief,” Shishiyama said.
After Miura questioned her dual roles, Kada responded, “Nippon Mirai was formed to support local policies and to convey local voices to the central government, and I am not taking prefectural government business lightly.” But Kada added that she will create a better communication system so she can be contacted in case of an emergency in Shiga.
As governor, Kada still has a lot of work to do, including getting the assembly to pass a supplementary budget to set up terminals to monitor local radiation levels under the System for Prediction of Environment Emergency Dose Information (SPEEDI). About 177,000 people in north and northwestern areas of Shiga live within 30 km of towns in neighboring Fukui Prefecture that host 13 nuclear reactors.
However, the LDP majority in the prefectural assembly is reluctant to cooperate due to Kada’s leadership of Nippon Mirai.
Shozo Terakawa, a Shiga farmer and environmental activist who helped convince Kada to run for governor in 2006, agreed that she is now isolated.
“There is almost nobody, except for (Nippon Mirai deputy chief) Tetsunari Iida, at the top of the party whom Kada can rely on,” Terakawa said.
“Ozawa is going to be the real leader. Kada received a lot of votes as governor, but Nippon Mirai has no foundation locally and people here are disappointed in her,” he said. “She may have problems winning the governor’s office again in 2014.”
Civic groups have lodged similar complaints against Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto, who founded Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Restoration Party) and now is its coleader, with ex-Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara at the helm.