National / Politics

Justice minister, LDP suffer heavy blows in Tohoku over frustration with 3/11 cleanup, TPP deal

Kyodo, Staff Report

The ruling Liberal Democratic Party lost five of the six seats up for grabs in the Tohoku region in Sunday’s Upper House election as voters vented their frustration with the government’s post-disaster reconstruction plan and the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact.

In humiliating news for the party, which won big elsewhere, Justice Minister Mitsuhide Iwaki lost again to Teruhiko Mashiko of the Democratic Party, who was also backed by other opposition parties.

Fukushima, where 100,000 residents remain displaced five years into the worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl, was an important constituency for the LDP.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Shinjiro Koizumi, head of the party’s agricultural and forestry affairs committee, stumped in the prefecture to appeal for support.

While Iwaki trumpeted the LDP’s decisiveness and legislative advantage, Mashiko vowed to decommission all 10 reactors in the prefecture.

Election results show Mashiko won 462,852 votes, or 50.5 percent of the total, to Iwaki’s 432,982 votes, or 47.2 percent.

Behind the LDP’s losses were the decision by the Japan Agricultural Cooperatives group (JA) to stop institutionally backing the ruling party to protest against the TPP.

The JA group, a mammoth national organization that controls most of the distribution and procurement channels for the nation’s farmers, has traditionally supported the LDP. But this time around, it stopped obliging members in all Tohoku prefectures except Fukushima to cast votes in the LDP’s favor.

In Yamagata Prefecture, Yasue Funayama, an independent backed by the opposition, ran on an anti-TPP platform, defeating Kaoru Tsukino, who previously worked for the JA group.

In Iwate, newcomer Eiji Kidoguchi, another opposition-backed independent, emerged victorious over Shinichi Tanaka, who was endorsed by the LDP.

Tanaka, also a newcomer, vowed to “complete reconstruction from the disaster as soon as possible,” but failed to convince voters to support him.

The victory by Kidoguchi, a former secretary of political heavyweight Ichiro Ozawa, co-leader of Seikatsu no To (People’s Life Party & Taro Yamamoto and Friends), means that non-LDP members have dominated the Iwate constituency for a quarter century.

In the Aomori and Miyagi districts, DP candidates Masayo Tanabu and Mitsuru Sakurai also won tightly fought races against their LDP-backed opponents.

In Akita, however, Hiroo Ishii, a former professional baseball player backed by the LDP, won against the DP candidate Daigo Matsuura, cashing in on his popularity as an athlete.