• Kyodo

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Campaigning for the April 15 gubernatorial election in Akita Prefecture officially began Thursday, with the incumbent and two other contenders vying for the seat.

Gov. Sukeshiro Terata, 60, who is seeking his second four-year term, Kaneyuki Muraoka, 43, a former head of Japan Junior Chamber Inc., and Junji Okui, 48, an official of the prefectural chapter of the Japanese Communist Party running on the party ticket, are competing in what is viewed as yet another bellwether for the House of Councilors election in July.

Terata is running as an independent but has been supported by Diet members of the Democratic Party of Japan and the Japanese Trade Union Confederation (Rengo).

Muraoka, son of Liberal Democratic Party executive Kanezo Muraoka, is an independent backed by the LDP and its coalition ally, the New Conservative Party.

The outcome of the race, expected to be a runoff between Terata and Muraoka, will be felt in national politics in the runup to the Upper House election, as both the ruling and opposition camps are still reeling from the outcome of the Chiba gubernatorial election Sunday, which was won by independent candidate Akiko Domoto, who ran without support from any political party.

In 1997, Terata became the first Akita governor not backed by the LDP, after his predecessor resigned over a scandal involving the misuse of 900 million yen in public funds.

At that time, Terata was supported by the now-defunct New Frontier Party.

In this campaign, Terata also has the support of agricultural groups that had previously endorsed LDP-backed candidates. The governor’s campaign platform is built on his achievements during the past four years, including reducing the prefectural government workforce.

Muraoka claims he would build strong ties between the prefecture and the central government.

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