The race for the July 13 Shiga gubernatorial election will kick off Thursday with three candidates vying to replace Yukiko Kada, with the campaign expected to focus on public works spending and how to cope with nuclear reactors in neighboring Fukui Prefecture.
One candidate is Takashi Koyari, 47, a former adviser to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s Cabinet. He has the support of the LDP, New Komeito, the prefectural chapter of Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Restoration Party), some local Your Party members and senior business leaders, especially in the construction industry.
Koyari is promising to use his contacts in the central government to get more transportation infrastructure projects in Shiga, and to create more economic opportunities for women and the elderly.
One of his opponents will be Ikuo Tsubota, 55, a member of the Japan Communist Party’s prefectural chapter who will run on a strong anti-nuclear platform, saying he will oppose the restart of reactors in Fukui.
Tsubota is also promising to beef up support for social welfare programs.
The third candidate is Taizo Mikazuki, 43, a former Lower House member from the Democratic Party of Japan who will run without party support. He has the backing of Kada and some of her supporters, including small business owners, farmers and environmental activists.
Mikazuki opposes nuclear power but is also attempting to lure Koyari supporters with promises to promote public transportation projects.
As always, the economy will play a major role in the campaign. Kada was swept into office after voter disgust with Liberal Democratic Party-led plans for questionable pork barrel projects, including a new dam, a shinkansen station and even, at one point, a new airport to serve Shiga and Kyoto.
The airport idea was abandoned before Kada took office. However, as governor she canceled construction of the dam and shinkansen station, a move that voters applauded but which angered the LDP and construction companies.
However, she still managed to forge a working relationship with opposition assembly members before an ill-conceived plan to enter national politics in 2012 with former LDP and DPJ strongman Ichiro Ozawa backfired, angering supporters and forcing her to avoid running again.
The nuclear issue will be prominent in the campaign. Lake Biwa, less than 30 km from some of Fukui’s reactors, is the source of water for 14.5 million people in the Kansai region. Shiga would also likely be flooded with evacuees should anything go wrong at the nuclear plants in Fukui.