KOFU, YAMANASHI PREF. – Former House of Representatives member Kotaro Nagasaki won the Yamanashi Prefecture gubernatorial election Sunday with support from Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s ruling bloc.
Nagasaki, 50, who ran as an independent but with recommendations from the Liberal Democratic Party and its coalition partner Komeito, defeated three other candidates including incumbent Hitoshi Goto, 61, who was backed by the main opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan and the Democratic Party for the People.
The latest poll marked the first face-off between ruling and opposition camps in 2019. Through the year quadrennial unified local elections are set to be held in April, followed by the triennial poll for the House of Councilors in the summer.
The Abe administration is apparently hoping that victory in the Yamanashi race will serve as a spur for the ruling camp to win other key elections during the year.
LDP Secretary-General Toshihiro Nikai said Nagasaki’s victory marked “an auspicious beginning of the election year.”
During his election campaign, Nagasaki criticized the prefectural administration led by incumbent governor Goto for having been brought to a standstill, pointing to the fact that an increasing number of young people are leaving Yamanashi. He called for the implementation of policies to develop industry and improve the quality of education in the prefecture.
He pledged to revitalize the regional economy with state subsidies and promote tourism through a maglev train project, via which Central Japan Railway Co. (JR Tokai) plans to connect Tokyo and Nagoya in 2027.
To support Nagasaki during the campaign period, the LDP sent many senior lawmakers to Yamanashi, including Nikai and Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga.
Nagasaki’s expected victory comes despite criticism of the Abe administration, and following revelations that the labor ministry released faulty jobs data for more than a decade resulting in people being underpaid in work-related benefits.
The two other candidates were Hitoshi Hanada, 57, backed by the Japanese Communist Party, and former Upper House member Harunobu Yonenaga, 53.
Nagasaki won 198,047 votes, while Goto secured 166,666, Yonenaga 17,198 and Hanada 16,467. Voter turnout was 57.93 percent, up 16.08 points from the previous election in 2015.
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