• Kyodo

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Mie Gov. Masayasu Kitagawa, the first governor to introduce an administrative assessment system, told the prefectural assembly Monday that he will not seek a third term next spring.

The surprise announcement by Kitagawa, known as a reformist who also pushed for disclosure of administrative information, may mean he is seeking a return to national politics.

Although Kitagawa said he is “not thinking” of trying to return to the Diet, he indicated he plans to keep his options open.

A three-time member of the prefectural assembly, Kitagawa was first elected to the House of Representatives in 1983 and re-elected three times before winning the 1995 Mie gubernatorial election.

Kitagawa, 58, was re-elected in a 1999 landslide, backed by the Liberal Democratic Party, the Democratic Party of Japan, New Komeito and other parties.

“Since I was first elected in 1995, I have emphasized the problems resulting from a governor staying in office for multiple terms. I have initiated various reform efforts in my eight years in office, and it is now necessary for a person with fresh ideas to set a new stage for reforms,” Kitagawa told the assembly.

Kitagawa said later he made the decision on his own and did not consult with any Diet members.

He previously ruled out returning to national politics, and was widely expected to seek a third term next April. Political sources in Mie predict Kitagawa will run in the next Lower House election, which must be held by June 2004.

Only the Japanese Communist Party has indicated plans to field a candidate in the April 13 Mie gubernatorial election, but other parties are expected to join the race now that Kitagawa is not running.

Governors in other prefectures had mixed reactions to Kitagawa’s decision.

“I have considered Gov. Kitagawa a comrade,” Miyagi Gov. Shiro Asano said. “(His decision) was discouraging because he has been the leader of the (reformist) movement among prefectural governors.”

Iwate Gov. Hiroya Masuda said he wants Kitagawa to keep pushing for local-administration reforms even after he quits as governor.

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