6TH LD: DPJ-backed Kawakatsu wins Shizuoka election, dealing blow to Aso.SHIZUOKA, Japan, July 6 Kyodo
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A Democratic Party of Japan-backed candidate won Sunday's gubernatorial election in Shizuoka, seeing off his main rival backed by the ruling coalition and dealing a further blow to Prime Minister Taro Aso ahead of the looming general election.
Heita Kawakatsu, 60, backed by the main opposition DPJ DPJ Democratic Party of Japan
DPJ Département de la Protection de la Jeunesse , the Social Democratic Party and the People's New Party The People's New Party (国民新党 Kokumin Shintō) is a Japanese political party formed on August 17, 2005 in the aftermath of the defeat of Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's Japan Post privatisation bills which led to a snap election. , won a close contest, defeating Yukiko Sakamoto, 60, who was endorsed by the ruling Liberal Democratic Party and its coalition partner, the New Komeito party, independent Toru Unno, 60, and the Japanese Communist Party's Sadayoshi Hirano, 59, according to the election returns.
It is the fourth consecutive victory by a DPJ-backed candidate against an LDP-supported one in local elections, following mayoral polls in Nagoya, Saitama and Chiba.
The voter turnout was 61.06 percent, up 16.57 percentage points from the previous gubernatorial election. Kawakatsu garnered 728,706 votes, while 713,654 ballots went to Sakamoto, 332,952 to Unno and 65,669 to Hirano, with all votes counted.
''I will devote myself to work so that every single (Shizuoka) person will be happy,'' said Kawakatsu after winning.
The victory by Kawakatsu in the latest race, widely seen as a bellwether for the House of Representatives election, will give added impetus to the DPJ at a time when Aso has been steadily losing support.
While Aso is considering dissolving the lower house immediately after the July 12 Tokyo assembly election, the defeat in Shizuoka will further damage his reputation and calls may grow within the LDP LDP - Linux Documentation Project that he should step down if the ruling coalition fails to secure the majority in the Tokyo election, political observers said.
Many in the ruling coalition were pessimistic after the result, with a senior LDP lawmaker blaming Aso for having ''a negative effect'' on the election and a New Komeito party executive worrying that it ''would affect the Tokyo assembly election.''
But Chief Cabinet Secretary Takeo Kawamura denied it would have any influence on national politics. While calling the result ''disappointing,'' he said, ''From the very start, we considered it as just another local election separate from national politics.''
Kawakatsu, who was also supported by the Shizuoka branch of the Japanese Trade Union Confederation, or Rengo, in his first challenge for an elected public position, successfully attracted unaffiliated voters who are critical of the ruling coalition and want a change of government at a national level.
The DPJ continuously sent senior officials, including party leader Yukio Hatoyama, to campaign for Kawakatsu and call for a ''change of government'' at the national level, starting with Shizuoka.
By contrast, ruling coalition-backed Sakamoto was affected by problems involving the LDP, in which Aso's influence is declining, although she played on her wealth of administrative experience as a bureaucrat at the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry and as deputy governor of Shizuoka.
Sakamoto was also supported by former Gov. Yoshinobu Ishikawa, but could not conduct her election campaign with full backing because some LDP prefectural pre·fec·ture
1. The district administered or governed by a prefect.
2. The office or authority of a prefect.
3. The residence or housing of a prefect. assembly members favored Kawakatsu.
Kawakatsu, a former head of Shizuoka University of Art and Culture The Shizuoka University of Art and Culture (Japanese: 静岡文化芸術大学) is a university in Hamamatsu, in Shizuoka Prefecture, Japan. , is an economics scholar, who was also involved in an education reform panel under former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.