• Kyodo

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Eight people filed candidacies Sunday to become the first mayor of Saitama, the new capital of the prefecture inaugurated May 1 through the merger of three local municipalities. Ballots will be cast and counted next Sunday.

Effective May 1, the city of Saitama became the capital of Saitama Prefecture, following the merger of the former capital Urawa with the adjacent Omiya and Yono.

With about 1.03 million people — roughly 30 percent of the prefecture’s population — Saitama is now the 10th most populous city in Japan. About 30 percent of the city’s population commute to Tokyo.

The eight candidates are former Urawa Mayor Soichi Aikawa, 58; former Omiya Mayor Takahiro Shindo, 68; Machiko Oka, 53, a former prefectural assembly member; Shumei Takahashi, 44, a former secretary of the Saitama governor; Hiroko Takase, 43, a former Saitama city assembly member; Michitaka Numata, 48, a tax accountant; Setsuo Yamaguchi, 51, a real estate surveyor; and Ichiro Yoshida, 37, a freelance journalist.

While Aikawa and Shindo are expected to emphasize their career achievements as mayors of the now-defunct cities, the other four criticized the two leading candidates for joining the election, claiming that their candidacies will create antagonism and divisions among the merged areas and hamper harmonious development of the new city.

All the candidates are running as “independents” without affiliation to specific political parties, apparently in pursuit of support from unaffiliated voters.

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