• Kyodo


Jin Murai, who defeated incumbent Yasuo Tanaka in Sunday’s Nagano gubernatorial election, indicated Monday he will remove the glassed-in office that his predecessor set up to symbolize the transparency of his administration.

“The glassed-in office may have changed the appearance of the prefectural administration, but I don’t think transparency in the actual decision-making process was achieved,” Murai, a former veteran Liberal Democratic Party lawmaker, told a news conference in the city of Nagano.

He also criticized Tanaka, saying personnel affairs at the prefectural government had suffered under his leadership, as he often heard people say bureaucrats who opposed the governor were relegated to inferior jobs.

Prior to the news conference, Murai appeared on a TV program but declined to say whether he will continue with Tanaka’s policy of not approving dam projects, saying it was not appropriate to comment on it at the present time.

After failing to win a third term, Tanaka suggested at a news conference he will continue his political activities as chief of New Party Nippon, a small opposition party.

“I hope that the people will put their trust in me and give me the opportunity to work on their behalf,” he said.

On the outcome of the election, Tanaka said, “Mr. Murai and I have different views, and more people supported him. I accept the democratic outcome.”

Tanaka’s term will end Aug. 31.

The election was seen as a vote on the achievements of Tanaka’s six years in office, which were stamped with his unique mark, most notably in his drive to oppose dam projects.

Murai came out on top with 612,725 votes against Tanaka’s 534,229.

The result suggests Tanaka’s constant state of confrontation with the prefectural assembly during the last four years drove away voters who had given him their resounding support in the previous election in September 2002.

“I want to thank Nagano citizens for providing me with an opportunity to be a governor who serves the people,” Tanaka said at his campaign office in Matsumoto on Sunday.

Murai campaigned on a platform critical of Tanaka, saying his opponent focused too heavily on fiscal reform and failed to implement public works projects needed to keep the economy ticking and to prevent natural disasters.

The former House of Representatives member also promised to mend ties with municipal leaders that have soured during Tanaka’s stint.

Tanaka suspended some dam-building projects, saying it was important to preserve forests, and this policy won support even from some of his opponents in the assembly.

But his method of forming, announcing and implementing various policies — including those related to dams — drew criticism from assembly members, who said he made light of proper procedures and acted in an authoritarian manner.

Nagano had only three governors in the postwar era before Tanaka, two of whom were former bureaucrats. Murai, who once worked at the old Ministry of International Trade and Industry, is now set to become Nagano’s third bureaucrat-turned-governor.

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