SAITAMA – Official campaigning began Thursday for the Upper House by-election in Saitama Prefecture, where a former governor is pitted against the head of a minor opposition party critical of public broadcaster NHK.
Independent Kiyoshi Ueda, 71, is an established figure after serving as Saitama governor for 16 years, while Takashi Tachibana, 52, leader of NHK Kara Kokumin o Mamoru To (the Party to Protect the People from NHK), is known for making controversial remarks — most recently a suggestion that genocide is the solution to overpopulation.
Ueda was a member of the now-defunct Democratic Party of Japan, and served four four-year terms as Saitama governor from 2003.
Voting will take place on Oct. 27. The election is being held to fill the vacancy left by Motohiro Ono, who became Saitama governor in August.
Tachibana abruptly announced his candidacy on Tuesday to compete with Ueda, who is supported by major opposition parties the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan and the Democratic Party for the People.
Tachibana, a former employee of NHK, won his Diet seat in July by calling for the abolition of the current mandatory payment of subscription fees to the public broadcaster.
The Liberal Democratic Party, led by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, has decided not to field its own candidate in the race, as Ueda is in favor of constitutional reform — a long-held goal of the LDP. In particular, Ueda supports revising the war-renouncing Article 9 of the Constitution.
The LDP’s tacit backing of Ueda is expected to make it difficult for opposition parties to frame the election as a symbol of their joint efforts to counter the LDP-Komeito ruling coalition.
With less than two years left in his current term, Abe, who also serves as LDP president, is calling on opposition parties to engage in parliamentary debate over the Constitution.
Even together with other pro-amendment forces, the LDP does not currently have the two-thirds majority it needs to initiate the process of constitutional revision in the House of Councilors.