The ruling coalition’s loss in a mayoral race in Saitama on Sunday delivered a setback to the Liberal Democratic Party and ally New Komeito, which hope to win control of the opposition-controlled House of Councilors this summer.
The incumbent, Hayato Shimizu, 51, was re-elected to a second four-year term, defeating 63-year-old independent Takeshi Naganuma, backed by the ruling coalition, and two other contenders.
Shimizu, who ran as an independent, drew votes from supporters of both the opposition and the LDP by stressing his first-term achievements and pledging to develop the prefectural capital and bolster aid to child-rearing families.
Naganuma, secretary general of the LDP’s local chapter, failed to upset Shimizu despite support from Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s ministers as well as LDP and New Komeito officials.
The tally was 171,876 votes to 118,362.
The loss will have a “big impact” on the ruling coalition’s fights in Saitama this summer, a ranking New Komeito official said.