Election of TV entertainer Mr. Sonomanma Higashi on Sunday as governor of Miyazaki shows that voters are looking for a fresh politician — someone who has no connections with traditional political forces or vested interests. Such a sentiment among Miyazaki voters should have been strong because the election was to fill a vacancy left by former Gov. Tadahiro Ando, who was arrested last month on suspicion of bid-rigging over public projects.
Mr. Higashi, whose real name is Hideo Higashikokubaru, received no backing from any political party. His victory must have come as a shock especially to the Liberal Democratic Party since it is suffering from revelations of funding scandals involving two LDP executives and several Cabinet members of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s administration. It may be a sign that voters who were loyal to particular parties are deserting them.
Mr. Higashi was supported not only by a majority of nonpartisan voters but also by a considerable portion of supporters of the LDP and other political parties, according to exit polls. Two candidates ran from the conservative camp because the LDP failed to unify its forces within Miyazaki Prefecture. But if the LDP comforts itself by citing the factor, it may be misreading voter sentiment. It should not forget that the candidate the LDP and its coalition partner Komeito officially supported finished third.
Yamanashi and Ehime also had gubernatorial elections on Sunday. The conservative force in Yamanashi was so divided that the LDP was unable to officially support any conservative candidate, although one such candidate won. In Ehime, the LDP, Komeito and the Social Democratic Party officially supported the incumbent governor, who easily won. In a sense, the Democratic Party of Japan, the No. 1 opposition party, was a loser in all the three elections because it could not field its own candidate in any of the three elections.
Mr. Higashi, who left the the school of politics and economics at Waseda University without graduating, must prove his political talent in dealing with the assembly and bureaucracy so that he can bring transparency to the prefecture politics and revitalize the local economy.
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