CHIBA – A day after emerging victorious in Sunday’s Chiba gubernatorial election, Akiko Domoto expressed satisfaction that her win was secured through a purely citizen-oriented campaign.
The former House of Councilors member ran the race — widely viewed as a bellwether for the July Upper House election — without party support.
“(What started as) campaigning in small areas came to form a vortex. The main players were citizens, women, youth and the elderly,” the 68-year-old Domoto told reporters Monday in summing up her win, which will make her the third female governor, following those in Osaka and Kumamoto.
Her victory in a prefecture that had had 20 years of con
servative rule is viewed as another indication voters are tired of the old school of politics and warming to those who distance themselves from established parties.
Domoto believes her campaign strategy will “catch on like wildfire” throughout the country ahead of the summer Upper House race.
The poll turned out to be a close race among Domoto and two other candidates — Ryozo Iwase, a 67-year-old former Upper House member, and Yasuhiko Wakai, a 55-year-old urban planner. Domoto garnered 491,205 votes, Iwase 472,325 and Wakai 428,153.
Iwase, a former head of the prefecture’s education board, was backed by the Liberal Democratic Party, the New Conservative Party and the Liberal Party; Wakai was supported by the Democratic Party of Japan, the largest opposition force.
The two other candidates in the race were Izumi Kono, 60, supported by the Japanese Communist Party, and Masanori Kadota, 53, a former member of the Funabashi Municipal Assembly who had no party support.
Voter turnout on the rainy day was 36.88 percent, exceeding the 28.67 percent turnout for the previous poll.
In Tokyo on Monday, Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori, also the LDP president, told an Upper House Budget Committee session that his party would have to do some serious soul-searching as to why party-backed candidates were not faring well locally.
He reckoned that it appears that wide support is important for a governor, and that gubernatorial races are different to Diet elections.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuo Fukuda questioned whether Domoto would actually be able to carry out her campaign pledges after taking office, before directing a verbal jab at Chiba voters.
“It seems many people are casting their votes without strong volition. Frankly, I doubt whether this tendency (of unaffiliated candidates winning) will remain as is,” Fukuda told a regular news conference at the Prime Minister’s Official Residence.
A key issue in Sunday’s election was whether to go ahead with the filling in of 101 hectares of tideland in Tokyo Bay. Canceling the project would signal a major shift in the prefecture’s policy of pursuing development projects to boost the local economy.
The reclamation plan aims to alleviate overcrowding and involves building an expressway and a sewage-disposal plant. It is being examined by an advisory body to the prefectural government.
During the campaign, Domoto said she would prefer an underground highway given the options but said Chiba should place higher priority on expanding public transport, sidewalks and bicycle routes, calling the reclamation project a costly venture the prefecture cannot afford.
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