AOMORI – Official campaigning began Tuesday for the first mayoral election in 16 years in the town of Oma, Aomori Prefecture, with four candidates battling it out over whether an under-construction nuclear plant is good for the community.
Voters will cast ballots Sunday for the first time since January 2001. The current mayor, Mitsuharu Kanazawa, 66, faced no challengers in the three previous elections.
Kanazawa, who is seeking re-election once again, supports the early completion of the nuclear plant that Electric Power Development Co., more commonly known as J-Power, started building in 2008 on the coast of the Tsugaru Strait between Aomori and Hokkaido.
Two of the three other candidates oppose the construction, which was suspended in the aftermath of the 2011 Fukushima nuclear crisis. The plant’s targeted start for commercial operation is currently set for fiscal 2024.
One of the candidates is Hideki Sasaki, 67, a former member of the municipal assembly in Hakodate, Hokkaido, located about 30 km across the Tsugaru Strait from the construction site. Sakaki, who moved to Oma, opposes the construction.
Another is Atsuko Kumagai, 62, the head of a citizens’ group who owns land near the construction site. She also objects to the plant’s construction and proposes reinvigorating the town through fishing and tourism.
The final candidate is Naofumi Nozaki, a 61-year-old former Oma town official. He has criticized the current town administration for excessive dependence on government nuclear power plant subsidies and has pledged to restore the town’s fiscal health and revitalize the local community.