• Kyodo

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Gov. Sukeshiro Terata was re-elected to his second four-year term in Sunday’s gubernatorial race in Akita, defeating two challengers and dealing a fresh blow to the ruling coalition parties before July’s House of Councilors election.

Terata, 60, who was unofficially backed by the Democratic Party of Japan, the main opposition force, and the Social Democratic Party, defeated Kaneyuki Muraoka, 43, a former head of Japan Junior Chamber of Commerce, backed by the Liberal Democratic Party, New Komeito and the New Conservative Party, and Junji Okui, 48, running on the ticket of the Japanese Communist Party.

Voter turnout was 73.34 percent, compared with 69.52 percent in the previous election four years ago.

The re-election of Terata in a traditionally conservative stronghold of the LDP means difficult times ahead for the coalition in the Upper House race. The LDP’s two coalition allies are New Komeito and the New Conservative Party.

In 1997, Terata became the first Akita governor not backed by the LDP. He was then supported by the now-defunct Shinshinto, an opposition force formed by ex-LDP member Ichiro Ozawa, who now leads the Liberal Party.

He campaigned this time with a goal of not officially joining hands with any political force throughout his administration.

Terata mainly enjoyed support from nonaligned voters in urban areas by stressing his reform achievements during the past four years.

His predecessor, Kikuji Sasaki, resigned amid a scandal involving the misuse of 900 million yen in public funds.

Terata also enjoyed support from agricultural groups that had previously endorsed LDP-backed candidates.

Muraoka, son of LDP Executive Council Chairman Kanezo Muraoka, aimed to secure organized votes from supporters of the coalition.

The former head of the nationwide organization of chambers of commerce for young executives had unsuccessfully appealed to floating voters despite the support of young business executives for his bid to become Japan’s youngest serving governor.

Okui, secretary general of the JCP’s Akita chapter, pledged to cancel public works projects but failed to gain much support.

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