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Kada bows out of Shiga race

by Eric Johnston

Staff Writer

Shiga Gov. Yukiko Kada announced Wednesday that she will not seek a third term but will instead team up with Lower House member Taizo Mikazuki, head of the Democratic Party of Japan’s prefectural chapter, to form a local political group whose platform includes the phasing out of nuclear power.

The 42-year-old Mikazuki, a Diet member since 2003, is also expected to run as Kada’s successor in the gubernatorial election scheduled for July.

Kada, 63, an expert on the ecology of Lake Biwa, was first elected governor in 2006 with support from local citizen groups and the opposition Social Democratic Party. She beat the Liberal Democratic Party- and New Komeito-backed candidate by more than 30,000 votes through promising to oppose public works projects those two parties had long supported.

Her popularity soared after she defeated plans for a new bullet train station, and the LDP-New Komeito coalition, then in the opposition camp, fielded a candidate to run against Kada in the 2010 election, which she won in a landslide.

After the March 11, 2011, natural disasters and ensuing triple meltdowns at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant, Kada joined other Kansai-area governors in calling for a nationwide end to nuclear power.

She also pushed the region and the central government to create evacuation plans and measures to deal with any potential nuclear accident in neighboring Fukui Prefecture, the nation’s atomic energy heartland, warning of contamination from radioactive materials to Lake Biwa, which provides water to about 14 million people.

Kada, however, stumbled badly in the autumn of 2012, just before that December’s general election. To the surprise of her supporters, she announced she was forming a new national political party, called Nippon Mirai no To (Tomorrow Party of Japan), with controversial political operative Ichiro Ozawa.

The party ran in the Lower House election on a rural populist and anti-nuclear platform, but was badly beaten in the polls, and Ozawa promptly dumped Kada. Facing voter anger and condemnation in the prefectural assembly, Kada announced she would withdraw from national politics.

Kada’s Shiga supporters, angered by her courtship of Ozawa, had predicted in late 2012 she would not have enough support to win re-election. Other candidates planning to run for governor include Takashi Koyari, 47, a former trade ministry official backed by the LDP and New Komeito, and Ikuo Tsubota, 55, of the Japan Communist Party.