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LDP rookie trounces DPJ vet on Okada’s turf

Kyodo

Democratic Party of Japan candidate and incumbent Chiaki Takahashi, 56, lost his seat in Mie’s electoral district to Liberal Democratic Party rookie Yumi Yoshikawa during the Upper House election Sunday.

The district is home to former DPJ President Katsuya Okada, who was known as a traditional door-to-door election campaigner. Okada voiced his regret at Takahashi’s campaign office in Tsu, Mie Prefecture, on Sunday.

“It was really close. I am terribly sorry,” a grim Okada said.

In Mie Prefecture, the DPJ had won for five consecutive terms since a by-election in 2000. In last year’s Lower House election, the party managed to win two of the five seats despite a strong headwind, thanks to Okada’s popularity and his ties to local labor unions.

Okada, who did hardly any campaigning in his district for the December election, offered his full-scale support, organizing small gatherings and visiting local enterprises.

Together with Takahashi, who had served three terms, Okada apologized to about 50 supporters after the loss.

“We have been fighting voters with excessive expectations for ‘Abenomics,’ ” said Okada. “The fact that Takahashi lost is a huge loss for Mie,” Okada said.

Takahashi also admitted that the situation was tough for the DPJ, adding that the mere mention of the party’s name generated dislike.

The victor, Yoshikawa, 39, a former bank employee, celebrated with more than 100 supporters in her office in Yokkaichi, Mie Prefecture.

She bowed in appreciation.

“It was my long-cherished dream,” Yoshikawa said, her eyes wet with tears.

“I want to use my financial experience in banking and also put my efforts into the growth strategy.”

On Monday, the day after her victory, Yoshikawa said she is gradually grasping the fact that she actually won.

“I couldn’t sleep at all because I had to answer calls and reply to email that I won in the election,” a red-eyed Yoshikawa said at her campaign office.

She then headed to southern Mie to greet supporters there.