Kyoto Gov. Keiji Yamada was elected the new head of the National Governors’ Association on April 26, beating Saitama Gov. Kiyoshi Ueda by just three votes, 25-22. In his speech after the vote, Mr. Yamada said the NGA will play a leading role in rebuilding the devastated areas and the country itself following the March 11 earthquake and tsunami.
These disasters, and the subsequent accidents at Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, hit Japan at a time when its population is rapidly graying and traditional bonds between people are weakening. Mr. Yamada has the important task of leading 46 other prefectural governors in helping the country overcome the consequences of the triple-disaster and other problems.
Mr. Yamada must set out to establish close cooperative ties between his association and the associations of municipal mayors and local assembly chairpersons in solving these problems.
Mr. Yamada, a former internal affairs ministry bureaucrat, had been regarded as the strongest candidate to succeed the former NGA head, former Fukuoka Gov. Wataru Aso, because he was thought to be well-versed in policy matters, and he had helped Mr. Aso by directly negotiating with the central government over issues such as the “devolution” of central government authority and more revenue to local governments.
In the election, Mr. Ueda, a former Lower House member, gained the support of governors in and around Tokyo after he admitted the town office of Futaba, Fukushima Prefecture (near Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant), and residents of the town into his prefecture.
Kanto-area governors had indicated a preference for an NGA head who came from a prefecture close to the devastated areas.
Mr. Yamada’s leadership will be tested in his attempt to get the central government to take on a bigger share of the financial burden for a fund to provide up to ¥3 million to people who have lost houses in a natural disaster. At present, the central and local governments share the burden 50-50.
Mr. Yamada also must prove his leadership in enabling local governments to receive a larger share of consumption tax revenues, improving the safety of existing nuclear power plants, and changing the nation’s long-term energy policy.
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