• Kyodo

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The Nagano Prefectural Assembly passed a no-confidence motion Friday evening against reformist Gov. Yasuo Tanaka, who was elected two years ago in a landslide that put an end to decades of conservative control.

Some 44 members of the 60-member assembly voted in favor of the motion, accusing Tanaka of “causing confusion in local politics with his self-righteous and crude” manner of governing.

Only five assembly members voted against the motion, and the remainder did not attend the vote. A three-quarters majority was required.

It is only the second time in postwar history that a no-confidence motion has been passed against a governor. In the previous case, the Gifu Prefectural Assembly in 1976 passed one against Gov. Saburo Hirano after he was implicated in a bribery scandal.

Many local Nagano politicians were peeved at Tanaka’s stated policy of reviewing the prefecture’s public works projects, in particular dam construction, to save money and protect the environment.

Tanaka, an award-winning novelist, must now either dissolve the assembly to hold a snap election or step down in 10 days, or both. If he takes no action, he will automatically lose his job.

Tanaka said he “humbly accepts” the assembly’s verdict, adding that he has not yet decided whether to resign or dissolve the assembly.

It he chooses to step down, he is expected to run again to seek Nagano residents’ verdict on his administration. A gubernatorial election must be held within 50 days of a governor’s ouster.

“I will continue to pursue reforms of the prefecture’s administration that I believe in and is also desired by the Nagano people,” Tanaka said in the morning.

The motion was submitted earlier in the day — the final day of the assembly’s current session — by three groups, consisting mainly of assembly members affiliated with the Liberal Democratic Party, the Democratic Party of Japan and New Komeito.

The three groups accounted for 48 of the assembly’s 60 seats. Three members of these groups walked out of the session before the vote, while another was absent from the day’s proceedings.

Seven members of another assembly group, affiliated with the Social Democratic Party, that has been critical of Tanaka’s political style did not show up for Friday’s vote, saying it was not the right time to hold a no-confidence vote.

The five assembly members who voted against the motion, expressing their clear support for the reformist governor, are all in the Japanese Communist Party.

The anti-Tanaka forces charged in the motion that the governor “put priority to realizing his own ideals over protecting the lives and properties of the Nagano people.”

“The governor belittled the need to form a consensus with local mayors and the prefectural assembly, while prioritizing the opinions of certain people with whom he shares his ideals,” they said. “With his self-righteous and crude political methods, he caused confusion and brought prefectural administration to a standstill, and betrayed the expectations of a number of Nagano people.”

The motion came in the wake of Tanaka’s announcement last week that he plans to cancel the construction of the Asakawa and Shimosuwa dams in the prefecture.

The move infuriated the power players in the assembly, many of whom have vested interests in the construction industry and had already been angered by Tanaka’s policy of reviewing the prefecture’s traditional policies of relying on extravagant public works projects subsidized by the national government.

Tanaka took office in October 2000. His advocacy of open government and reform efforts brought him into conflict with the prefectural bureaucracy and the predominantly conservative assembly.

He stirred up controversy last year by abruptly announcing that construction of concrete dams in the prefecture should be avoided where possible.

Local conservative politicians blamed Tanaka for hurting the already sluggish local economy by reducing spending on public works projects and lashed out over his move to cancel the dam projects, saying it could expose local residents to floods.

Proponents of the dams have further charged that if Tanaka scraps the two projects, Nagano would have to return more than 10 billion yen in national government subsidies.

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