SHIZUOKA – Incumbent Heita Kawakatsu was re-elected as Shizuoka governor Sunday, defeating a candidate backed by the ruling Liberal Democratic Party in a contest viewed as a prelude to next month’s pivotal House of Councilors election.
It was the third local election loss for the ruling LDP, following the mayoral races in Nagoya in April and in Saitama in May.
Kawakatsu, 64, who nominally ran as an independent but was supported by the opposition Democratic Party of Japan, defeated former Tama University professor Ichiro Hirose, 57, who was backed by the LDP, and Yukihiro Shimazu, 56, a senior official of the Japanese Communist Party’s local chapter.
A key issue in the election was the fate of Chubu Electric Power Co.’s Hamaoka Nuclear Power Plant, which was idled after the 2011 Fukushima disaster. Kawakatsu said a referendum should be held on restarting the plant, while Hirose called for letting the central government decide and Shimazu urged that it be decommissioned.
Kawakatsu’s victory in the 2009 election, when he was again backed by the DPJ, proved to be a bellwether for the historic general election that swept the opposition party into power for the first time.