• Kyodo

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Former Diet member Jin Murai of the Liberal Democratic Party was elected governor of Nagano Prefecture on Sunday, defeating two-term incumbent Yasuo Tanaka.

The election was seen as an evaluation of Tanaka’s performance during his six years in office, but voters showed only lukewarm interest.

The turnout rate was 50.78 percent as of 7:30 p.m., down 12.44 percentage points from the same stage in the last election in September 2002.

Murai’s supporters, who gathered at a Nagano hotel, were delighted with the early returns.

“We could be getting support from voters who are fed up with Tanaka’s administration,” one said.

Tanaka won in a landslide in 2002, receiving a total of 820,000 votes, but projections Sunday evening indicated voters were turned off by his political approach in promoting his reform plans, which created friction with the prefectural assembly.

Exit polls indicated Tanaka was not able to win over many swing voters this time around.

Murai, who held key posts as a Diet member , including head of the National Public Safety Commission, was backed by the local chapters of the LDP and its junior partner in the ruling coalition, New Komeito.

He also secured the support of the local chapter of the Japanese Trade Union Confederation. The Rengo chapter forms the power base of the local chapter of the Democratic Party of Japan.

The 50-year-old Tanaka and Murai, 69, both ran officially as independents.

Tanaka, a prize-winning novelist, first took office in October 2000.

He was dismissed in July 2002 after the Nagano Prefectural Assembly passed a vote of no confidence against him in a conflict over his plan to curb dam-construction projects.

He was re-elected that September.

During the campaign, Tanaka stressed his accomplishments in rebuilding prefectural finances and exempting medical service fees for preschool children.

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