National

Shiotani re-elected Kumamoto governor

Kyodo

Kumamoto Gov. Yoshiko Shiotani was re-elected Sunday, beating independent Michio Goto by a wide margin.

Shiotani, 65, who became Japan’s second female governor in 2000 after Osaka Gov. Fusae Ohta, also ran as an independent but had the support of the Liberal Democratic Party, New Komeito and about 100 business and labor organizations in the prefecture.

In declaring victory at her office in the city of Kumamoto, Shiotani expressed her determination to balance the prefecture’s budget and promote tourism and other policies.

During the campaign, which kicked off March 18, Shiotani stressed her achievements during the last four years, including implementing measures for the elderly and pushing through other social welfare programs.

Shiotani maintained a neutral stance on whether to go ahead with a controversial dam project on the Kawabe River, saying she would wait for the national government’s decision while also respecting the opinions of local people.

The project, first proposed by the national government in 1966, has been put on hold due to opposition from fishermen over loss of fishing rights.

The national government also lost a suit last year in a Fukuoka High Court ruling that favored farmers battling over how water will be used once a dam is built.

Although Shiotani has not come out against the project, she has said during her tenure that the national government has not disclosed enough information. She has also held a number of town meetings with local people to discuss the project.

Goto, 52, the head of a citizens’ group, criticized Shiotani for a lack of leadership, and called for an early construction of a smaller dam.

He ran a grassroots campaign but could not beat the machine that stood behind Shiotani.

Popular female governors, such as Osaka’s Ohta and Chiba Prefecture’s Akiko Domoto, rallied for Shiotani in the final days of the campaign.