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Gov. Wataru Aso of Fukuoka Prefecture has been elected to a third two-year term as head of the National Governors’ Association, at a time when the nation is suffering from a deep economic downturn and is in the grip of a new influenza virus. In combating these and other problems, the head of the nation’s 47 prefectural governors has a heavy responsibility. It is hoped that Mr. Aso will live up to his slogan — “A governors’ association that acts and changes Japan” — and help the governors exert a positive influence on politics.

Behind his election was the apparent preference among many governors for a leader who places more importance on coordinating different opinions than on exercising strong leadership. More than 20 prefectural governors are former bureaucrats. Mr. Aso himself was a bureaucrat with the former Ministry of International Trade and Industry.

But the association is undergoing change. The governors of Yamagata, Chiba and Akita prefectures were elected to their office this year for the first time. A total of 19 governors are serving their first term.

Mr. Toru Hashimoto, who was elected Osaka governor last year, has spearheaded a movement to review the system under which local governments must shoulder a certain portion of the costs of major public works carried out by the central government. He and the Kyoto and Shiga governors stopped a dam project in the Yodo River system. Gov. Ikuo Urashima of Kumamoto froze a dam project on the Kawabe River.

Mr. Hashimoto also caused a stir by criticizing Mr. Aso for accepting a former official of the internal affairs ministry into the association’s secretariat. He also said the association should clarify the purposes for which a reserve fund amounting to about ¥3 billion will be put to use.

The coming Lower House election could bring about a great change in Japanese politics. Gov. Aso’s responsibility to help build a future Japan will be great. One of his biggest tasks will be pushing devolution that will not only strengthen the power of local governments but also increase the welfare of local residents.

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