Incumbent Kyoto Gov. Keiji Yamada, 60, easily won re-election Sunday night, defeating rival Nozomu Ozaki, 59, by over a quarter of a million votes in a lackluster race.
Strong support from most established political parties and the business community, coupled with the lack of a compelling challenger, saw voter turnout plummet to its lowest level ever at just 34.45 percent.
According to the final count, Yamada won his fourth term with 481,195 votes to Ozaki’s 215,744. The incumbent had the backing of the conservative Liberal Democratic Party, New Komeito, and the Democratic Party of Japan. The Kyoto chapter of Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Restoration Party) also offered its support.
Backed by the Japanese Communist Party, challenger Ozaki, 59, received some support from local doctors and lawyers groups as well as opponents of nuclear power.
A former central government bureaucrat, Yamada enjoyed strong support from the more rural parts of Kyoto Prefecture, especially in the north and south, while Ozaki fared better in the capital. Yamada ran a safe campaign, trumpeting his record and promising more programs to revive local economies and policies to address the shrinking and aging population. He also promised to push for more infrastructure projects to respond to disasters, both natural and man-made.
Ozaki, by contrast, ran on a platform of promoting small and midsize business growth and tackling the gap in health care facilities between urban areas and rural towns and villages, especially those in north Kyoto, on the Sea of Japan coast. But a lack of name recognition doomed his campaign from the start.
Despite Yamada’s assertion earlier this year that nuclear power would be one of the main issues of the campaign, his official manifesto contained only vague goals of creating a prefecture that was not addicted to nuclear power. Yamada also pledged to have up to 20 percent of the prefecture powered by renewable energy by an undetermined date.
But for the prefecture as a whole, nuclear power is not solely about deciding whether it should remain a major source of electricity. There is also the issue of how to respond to an accident at one of the nuclear power plants in neighboring Fukui Prefecture.
Much of northern Kyoto Prefecture lies within a 30-km radius of those plants. An accident would put Kyoto on the receiving end of a flood of evacuees not only from Fukui, but from neighboring Shiga as well.
Apart from a promise to strengthen disaster preparedness by working with Kansai Electric Power Co. to maximize the safety of Fukui’s nuclear plants and to step up evacuation drills, the governor offered few specifics in his plan to deal with a nuclear accident there.
Mayor, 32, breaks record
Toma Yamazoe, 32, became the youngest mayor ever in Japan Sunday, defeating two opponents in their 60s in the town of Yosano, Kyoto Prefecture.
“I’m ready to bear this great responsibility, listening to the voices of many people,” he told reporters Monday morning.
Yamazoe pledged to promote local businesses and tourism during his campaign run.