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Newcomer defeats incumbent in Fukushima mayoral election

Kyodo

An independent newcomer won the Fukushima mayoral election Sunday, defeating the incumbent in a sign of public discontent over the local government’s reconstruction efforts from the nuclear crisis at a Fukushima No. 1 power plant.

Kaoru Kobayashi, 54, a former head of the Tohoku regional office of the Environment Ministry, defeated incumbent Takanori Seto, 66, and Yutaka Yamada, a 58-year-old backed by the Japanese Communist Party, by a large margin.

Turnout was 49.10 percent, up from a record low 38.18 percent in the previous election in 2009.

Kobayashi’s victory over Seto, who sought a fourth four-year term backed by the Liberal Democratic Party and the Social Democratic Party, was the latest in a string of election defeats for incumbents in other cities in Fukushima Prefecture. Residents chose new mayors in Koriyama in April and in Iwaki in September.

The cities of Fukushima, Iwaki and Koriyama are among the major local governments dealing with the nuclear crisis.

A key issue in Sunday’s Fukushima mayoral election was how to protect the health of residents and decontaminate areas affected by the nuclear crisis.

Kobayashi vowed to reform the city administration and speed up decontamination work.