Kochi governor, fed up with Tokyo, calling it quits

Kyodo

Kochi Gov. Daijiro Hashimoto, a reformist governor known for revitalizing local economies by doing away with hidebound practices, said Wednesday he will not seek re-election later this year.

He also hinted he may run for a Diet seat in the future.

A former reporter for NHK, Hashimoto, 60, told a news conference, “I will not run in the next election.”

Asked why, he said, “When I considered the relationship between the central and local government, I felt there is a limit to what a governor can do.”

Hashimoto cited talks on transferring tax revenue sources to the Kochi Prefectural Government, saying the central government ultimately overrode decisions made by the prefecture.

Some observers say Hashimoto may have decided to pull out because of increasing criticism of his long years in power, a practice said to have bred corruption in other prefectures. He was also suffering from declining popularity amid the prolonged economic slump.

Hashimoto, who was elected Kochi governor for the first time in 1991, is the longest-serving incumbent governor, currently in his fourth term after surviving five elections, including one held after he resigned in the middle of his term in 2004 to test public support following a political funds scandal.

The scandal involved allegations of a shady transaction in 1991 between Hashimoto’s former campaign aide and a construction company when he was first elected governor.

A half brother of the late Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto, he indicated he has ambitions to enter national politics, saying, “I am considering it as one of the options.”

Among Hashimoto’s initiatives that drew attention were a tax designed to preserve forests and abolishing the local government practice of using slush funds.