OTSU, SHIGA PREFECTURE – Voters in Shiga Prefecture went to the polls Sunday to elect a new governor from a ballot featuring three newcomers, and following a campaign dominated by nuclear policy and the local economy.
The three independent candidates hoping to succeed outgoing Gov. Yukiko Kada are Takashi Koyari, 47, a former Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry official, Taizo Mikazuki, 43, an ex-lawmaker of the Democratic Party of Japan, and Ikuo Tsubota, 55, a junior high school teacher.
Vote counting was to begin in the evening, with media projecting the outcome by midnight.
Koyari is backed by local chapters of the Liberal Democratic Party and its ruling coalition partner, New Komeito, while Mikazuki is supported by the main opposition DPJ and Kada, a nuclear power opponent. Tsubota is backed by the Japanese Communist Party.
Kada decided to back Mikazuki’s campaign rather than seek a third term. The two campaigned on a platform to give Shiga a greater say in whether to allow reactivation of nuclear reactors in neighboring Fukui Prefecture, with plans to form a political group together.
If Mikazuki loses, meanwhile, it would likely deal a blow to DPJ leader Banri Kaieda. Some party members are discussing a change in leadership as the DPJ continues to struggle to regain enough momentum to mount a challenge to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s LDP.