Suga downplays LDP loss in Kawasaki poll

by Reiji Yoshida

Staff Writer

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga on Monday downplayed the significance of an independent candidate winning the Kawasaki mayoral election the previous day after boasting no affiliation to the political machine, and the defeat of the presumed front-runner, a Liberal Democratic Party pick he campaigned for.

Suga, a close aide to LDP Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, said Sunday’s win by Norihiko Fukuda, a former Kanagawa Prefectural Assembly member, would not have an impact on national politics.

Fukuda defeated Yoshio Hideshima, a former Kawasaki official backed by the LDP, New Komeito and the Democratic Party of Japan, and Chikako Kimishima of the Japanese Communist Party.

Fukuda won 142,672 votes, while Hideshima gained 139,814 votes and Kimishima got 85,475.

Fukuda apparently won over young swing voters by emphasizing that he was not affiliated with any of the political parties.

Suga, who leads the LDP’s Kanagawa chapter, led the election campaign for Hideshima, formerly an elite bureaucrat in the internal affairs ministry. Suga, himself elected from Yokohama, has been deeply involved in local elections and politics.

At a news conference Monday, Suga tried to play down the impact of the loss in Kawasaki by claiming voters attached little weight to national-level issues when they elected the new head of their city.

“I don’t think (the Kawasaki poll) is relevant to national politics,” Suga told a daily briefing.

Hideshima, who hinted his intention to run in September, simply didn’t have much time to prepare and was not widely known, Suga said.

In the Kobe mayoral election Sunday, Kizo Hisamoto, a candidate backed by the LDP, New Komeito and the DPJ, narrowly beat four other independent candidates to score the victory.