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A candidate supported by the Liberal Democratic Party and Komeito clobbered a candidate officially endorsed by the Democratic Party of Japan and its two coalition partners in Sunday’s Nagasaki gubernatorial election. The outcome shows that many voters are displeased with the irregularities involving the political funds of Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama and the DPJ Secretary General Ichiro Ozawa. On the same day, in the mayoral election in Machida, Tokyo, the DPJ also lost to a candidate (the incumbent mayor) who was supported by the LDP and Komeito.

The blow to the DPJ appears even more serious in view of its general dominance in Nagasaki Prefecture, where it monopolizes the two Upper House seats and captured all four single-seat constituencies in the Lower House election last August. The DPJ’s sweep in the August election led to the decision by incumbent Gov. Genjiro Kaneko, a former LDP Lower House member, not to seek re-election for a fourth term, which necessitated Sunday’s poll.

Voter interest was high. Turnout was 60.08 percent, 7.81 percentage points higher than the election four years ago. Mr. Hodo Nakamura, a former vice governor regarded as the logical heir to Gov. Kaneko, trounced Mr. Tsuyoshi Hashimoto, the DPJ-endorsed candidate and former farm ministry bureaucrat, with 316,603 votes to 222,565 votes.

Mr. Hatoyama and Mr. Ozawa will have difficulty rallying support for the administration and their party unless they can fully explain matters related to their political finances in the Diet. If they fail to take appropriate steps in this direction, strong calls may arise within the DPJ for Mr. Ozawa to step down from his post before the Upper House election. The result in Nagasaki also shows that the DPJ needs to focus on improving local economies and strengthening the regional arms of its political machine.

Still, the LDP has little reason to feel buoyed. Its failure to officially endorse Mr. Nakamura shows its lack of confidence. A local poll conducted by Nagasaki Shimbun 10 days before the election showed that support for the LDP had dipped some seven points since last summer’s Lower House election.

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