National / Politics

With Abe re-elected, local governments now look for him to deliver on campaign promises

by Eric Johnston

Staff Writer

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe secured strong support from the Liberal Democratic Party’s local chapters in securing a third term as president of the party.

Now, just over six months before nationwide gubernatorial and assembly elections take place in April 2019, Abe and his LDP must turn their attention toward numerous local government requests for infrastructure, economic and social welfare projects, and financial assistance.

“Abe has indicated he agrees with all of the proposals our organization gave to the LDP presidential candidates. We hope Abe makes decisive efforts and shows leadership in cooperation between the central government and the prefectures, starting with a quick realization of our suggestions regarding rapid recovery from large-scale natural disasters,” said Saitama Gov. Kiyoshi Ueda, who heads the National Governors’ Association, in a statement following Abe’s re-election.

On Wednesday the association, which consists of all 47 prefectural leaders, announced a series of proposals it wanted to see the Liberal Democratic Party adopt once the presidential election was decided.

At the top of the list were specific calls for assistance to ensure a speedy recovery from natural disasters like the earthquakes and floods that have hit Hokkaido, Osaka, and western Japan over the past few months. Suggestions include central government support to strengthen local medical facilities against earthquakes.

The association also asked for an expansion of renewable energy at the local level, as well as increased assistance for disaster prevention efforts at nuclear power plants.

Furthermore, the association is seeking a national debate on revisions to the Constitution that would make the purpose and authority of local governments clearer than is currently the case.

For measures aimed at local revitalization, the association wants financial support for projects to attract new residents and businesses, and the relocation of more central government organs to other parts of Japan. The governors also desire LDP support for reviving regional universities to keep local students from attending school elsewhere and to hopefully attract new residents.

In addition to more financial support to increase day care facilities and personnel, and legal changes to create more accessible workplaces for women and the physically disadvantaged, the association highlighted the need to review the visa system for employing foreign workers, with the aim of making it easier for them to work in regions where there are severe labor shortages.

Over the coming months, the LDP is expected to shore up support among local chapters in advance of the April elections, for which the ruling and opposition parties have begun to select candidates. Those elections take place just after the LDP-Komeito coalition government approves the fiscal 2019 budget and a few months before an Upper House election scheduled for next summer.