Kobe – Motohiko Saito, an independent first-time candidate, was elected governor of Hyogo Prefecture, western Japan, on Sunday, beating four contenders, including a former deputy governor.
Saito, a 43-year-old former head of the finance section of the Osaka prefectural government, was supported by the ruling Liberal Democratic Party and Nippon Ishin no Kai, an opposition party.
It was the first Hyogo gubernatorial election among first-time candidates in 20 years, as incumbent Gov. Toshizo Ido, who served five terms, decided not to seek re-election.
Voter turnout stood at 41.10%, up slightly from 40.85% in the previous election.
The runner-up in the election was Kazuo Kanazawa, a 65-year-old former deputy governor of Hyogo.
The LDP headquarters supported Saito, while some prefectural assembly members of the party backed Kanazawa, making the election the first Hyogo gubernatorial race in which the LDP’s support was split.
The election result may leave an unpleasant aftertaste in the run-up to the election for the House of Representatives, the lower chamber of parliament, to be held by autumn.
It was the first time for Nippon Ishin’s headquarters to support a specific candidate in a gubernatorial election. Saito will be the first prefectural governor backed by the LDP and Nippon Ishin.
Saito, a former bureaucrat of the internal affairs ministry, campaigned on the platform of revamping the prefectural government, calling for administrative and fiscal reform, the revitalization of bay areas and stronger wide-area collaboration, including with neighboring Osaka Prefecture.
Senior LDP officials and Osaka Gov. Hirofumi Yoshimura, deputy leader of Nippon Ishin, took to the streets in support of Saito, helping him to gain wider voter support.
Kanazawa highlighted his administrative skills cultivated during 11 years as deputy governor. LDP assembly members and the prefectural chapters of the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan and the Democratic Party for the People, as well as Ido, provided support, but Saito fell short.
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