FUKUSHIMA – Official campaigning started Thursday for the Oct. 26 gubernatorial election in Fukushima Prefecture, with the main focus on recovery from the 2011 quake, tsunami and nuclear disasters.
The six candidates who filed to succeed Gov. Yuhei Sato include Vice Gov. Masao Uchibori, 50, Yoshihiro Kumasaka, 62, a former mayor of Miyako in Iwate Prefecture, and Katsutaka Idogawa, 68, a former mayor of Futaba in Fukushima, the town which hosts Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.
They all have similar pledges: reconstruction of the disaster zone and the immediate decommissioning of nuclear reactors within the prefecture.
All six candidates are running as independents, although two are backed by local chapters of political parties.
It has become customary in local Japanese elections for most candidates to run as independents. Some, however, receive backing from political parties in various ways.
Uchibori is backed by local chapters of the Liberal Democratic Party-Komeito ruling bloc as well as the Democratic Party of Japan and the Social Democratic Party. Kumasaka is backed by the New Renaissance Party and the local chapter of Japanese Communist Party.
It will be the prefecture’s first gubernatorial election since the March 11 disaster, with the number of candidates at a record high.
Sato, who served two four-year terms, said he would not run. He apparently endorsed Uchibori, saying his successor should be “someone who can carry out my will and continue reconstruction work, and who knows the prefecture very well.”
Other contenders are Yoshitaka Ikarashi, a 36-year-old pastor, convenience store manager Akiko Iseki, 59, and Yoshinao Kaneko, 58, the president of a construction firm.
At one stage it was thought the election would be contested by candidates backed by the ruling and opposition parties, as it falls ahead of a gubernatorial election next month in Okinawa Prefecture where the LDP’s headquarters and local chapter are expected to support separate candidates.
In Fukushima, the LDP’s prefectural chapter initially wanted to field a former Bank of Japan official, but it abandoned the bid and has decided instead support the candidate already backed by the DPJ, apparently to avoid risking a loss.
An LDP-backed candidate surprisingly lost in the Shiga gubernatorial race in July and the party led by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe believes it cannot afford another defeat.