NAGANO (Kyodo) Shuichi Abe, a former Nagano vice governor supported by the ruling Democratic Party of Japan, was elected governor in a narrow race against another former vice governor backed by the Liberal Democratic Party on Sunday.

The victory by Abe, 49, is the DPJ’s first major local election win since its huge defeat in the July 11 Upper House election and will hearten the ruling party as it tries to recover from that setback.

Three rookie candidates ran in the election, all as independents. The third candidate, who was endorsed by the Japanese Communist Party, finished far behind the other two.

Abe was a vice governor when New Party Nippon leader Yasuo Tanaka served as Nagano governor from 2000, while the LDP-backed candidate, Yoshimasa Koshihara, 63, was a vice governor under departing Gov. Jin Murai.

During the campaign, Abe, who was also backed by the Social Democratic Party and Kokumin Shinto (People’s New Party), stressed his work to implement reform when he served as deputy secretary general of the Government Revitalization Unit, which reviews central government programs to cut wasteful spending. Abe pledged to pursue a similar initiative in Nagano Prefecture.

“I want to put my all to better the lives of people in Nagano and pursue people-centered politics,” Abe said. Voter turnout was a record-low 52.70 percent.

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