• Kyodo

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Voters went to the polls Sunday for a House of Representatives by-election in Kagoshima Prefecture to fill the seat vacated by ruling party lawmaker Takeshi Tokuda, who resigned in February over election campaign allegations.

The six-horse race for the Kagoshima No. 2 constituency, the first national-level contest since the consumption tax was hiked April 1, revolves around two issues: “money and politics” in the wake of the Tokuda scandal and the impact of the tax hike on people’s livelihoods.

The main front-runners are former Kagoshima Prefectural Assembly chief Masuo Kaneko, 67, of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, and former Lower House member Akashi Uchikoshi, 56, of the Democratic Party of Japan.

Kaneko is also being backed by the LDP’s junior coalition partner, New Komeito, while Uchikoshi is being supported by three other opposition parties.

Kaneko has promised to stimulate the local economy with the help of “Abenomics,” the unorthodox deflation-busting strategy of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

Uchikoshi is campaigning on a pledge to improve transparency and get to the bottom of the loan scandal that cost Tokuda his Lower House seat. Tokuda is accused of organizing an effort to illegally pay hundreds of staff at Tokushukai, the nation’s largest hospital chain, started by his father, to work his campaign for the 2012 general election.

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