OSAKA — Riding a wave of populist support and local voter discontent with party politics, Nagoya voters returned former Mayor Takashi Kawamura to office Sunday night and elected his ally Hideaki Omura as governor of Aichi Prefecture.
By defeating opponents backed by the ruling Democratic Party of Japan, Kawamura, 62, and Omura, 50, delivered yet another body blow to Prime Minister Naoto Kan, whose team is preparing for a string of local elections in April. A poor performance will put Kan under pressure to dissolve the Diet and hold a Lower House election.
“This is a victory for the politics of change, not for the politics of just voting for the major parties,” Kawamura told supporters after winning Sunday night.
In addition, Nagoya voters overwhelmingly passed a referendum to dissolve the city council, a measure that was strongly supported by Kawamura. He resigned last month after only two years in office, calling Sunday’s snap mayoral election a contest of will between him and the city assembly, which blocked his efforts to institute a permanent 10 percent tax cut and to halve assembly members’ annual pay. The referendum’s passage means city assembly elections will likely take place next month.
Both Kawamura and Omura rode to victory on the power of their personalities and with the support of not only each other, but also Osaka Pref. Gov. Toru Hashimoto and his One Osaka, a local party. Hashimoto and his supporters traveled to Nagoya during the campaign to stump on Kawamura’s behalf.
With Kawamura’s return to office and the election of Omura as governor, attention now turns to how both men and Hashimoto will use their popularity and new parties to back candidates in other prefectures in April. Hashimoto, Kawamura, and Omura favor increased autonomy at the local and prefectural level, and the streamlining of local bureaucracies by merging where possible.
Two years ago, Kawamura was supported by the DPJ when he won an overwhelming victory by promising reforms including the institution of a 10 percent tax reduction, the halving of the city assembly’s salaries, and the trimming of the local bureaucracy. However, his efforts were rejected by the assembly last year. Kawamura’s supporters then formed their own party to back him and a separate group to push for the referendum.
Omura won the governorship with help from Kawamura and Hashimoto, New Komeito and members of the Liberal Democratic Party.
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