OSAKA — Rengo Osaka, the local political arm of the Japanese Trade Union Confederation (Rengo), plans to back Fusae Ota, councilor of the minister’s secretariat at the Ministry of International Trade and Industry, in the upcoming gubernatorial election, it was learned Wednesday. The governorship of Osaka is up for grabs after “Knock” Yokoyama resigned and was charged with sexual assault earlier this month. Sources close to Rengo Osaka said Ota’s candidacy has already been pitched to local chapters of the Liberal Democratic Party, the Democratic Party of Japan, New Komeito and the Liberal Party through informal channels and they have expressed interest. Political sources said the DPJ, which had been seeking to field its own candidate in the Feb. 6 election, and New Komeito are positive about jointly supporting one person. Rengo Osaka may formally ask Ota to stand in the race as early as Friday, the sources said, adding that she has informally indicated being interested.The Japanese Communist Party earlier announced that it would recommend Makoto Ajisaka, 66, Kansai University professor emeritus, as a candidate. Ajisaka ran for the JCP in the April 12 Osaka gubernatorial election. Ota, 48, of Hiroshima Prefecture, served as vice governor of Okayama Prefecture from 1997 until July. She has worked in Osaka as an official at the Kinki Regional Bureau of International Trade and Industry. All parties, except the JCP, have been having difficulty finding a common candidate for the race. The DPJ and New Komeito have not given a nod to the suggestion of Construction Minister Masaaki Nakayama, an LDP lawmaker, while lawyer Kohei Nakabo, former president of Resolution and Collection Corp., has refused overtures from the DPJ’s local chapter, citing old age. Yokoyama, who ran as an independent, won a second four-year term in the April election with 2.35 million votes, a record for an Osaka gubernatorial election. Due chiefly to his popularity, the LDP, New Komeito, the Liberal Party and the DPJ stayed out of the race. Last week, Yokoyama was indicted on a charge of molesting a female campaign assistant during his re-election campaign.
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