FUKUSHIMA – Former Fukushima Vice Gov. Masao Uchibori appeared set for victory in the Fukushima gubernatorial election Sunday, the first since the 2011 nuclear disaster in the prefecture, defeating five other candidates, according to Kyodo News projections.
Reconstruction from the March 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami as well as nuclear policy were the main issues in the election involving around 1.6 million voters, but discussions failed to go into depth as both ruling and opposition parties supported 50-year-old Uchibori.
With the predictable victory of Uchibori, who has declined to comment on whether reactors outside the prefecture should be reactivated, the government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will continue procedures to restart the nation’s idled nuclear plants.
As the ruling coalition of Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party and the Komeito party managed to stave off another defeat, following a loss in the Shiga Prefecture gubernatorial race in July, the focus will now shift to the gubernatorial election next month in Okinawa, where issues related to U.S. military bases are likely to dominate.
Uchibori ran nominally as an independent but was supported by the local chapters of the LDP and Komeito as well as the opposition Democratic Party of Japan and the Social Democratic Party.
“I will put my heart and soul into the reconstruction of Fukushima,” said Uchibori, who will succeed outgoing Gov. Yuhei Sato. “I will first put my efforts into reconstructing evacuated areas and revitalize the prefecture.”
Sato, who served two four-year terms, apparently threw his support behind Uchibori, saying he wanted his successor to be “someone who can carry out my will and continue reconstruction work, and who knows the prefecture very well.”
During campaigning, Uchibori pledged to “make utmost efforts to bring recovery to Fukushima as early as possible,” while highlighting his readiness to work as governor after supporting Sato as vice governor from 2006.
Uchibori resigned from the vice governorship last month to run in the election.
Although the number of candidates was a record high for the prefecture, all of them agreed that reactors in the prefecture should be decommissioned and pledged to reconstruct the region devastated by the March 2011 disaster and subsequent nuclear crisis.
While the other contenders opposed reactivating nuclear reactors in other parts of Japan, Uchibori refrained from expressing his view on the matter, apparently in deference to the central government which is pushing to restart them.
The prefecture has already demanded that the central government and Tokyo Electric Power Co. decommission the four reactors at the utility’s Fukushima No. 2 nuclear plant in addition to the six at the crippled Fukushima No. 1 plant.
The other contenders were Yoshihiro Kumasaka, a 62-year-old former mayor of the city of Miyako, in Iwate Prefecture, who was backed by the Japanese Communist Party and the New Renaissance Party, Katsutaka Idogawa, a 68-year-old former mayor of the town of Futaba in Fukushima, which hosts the Fukushima No. 1 plant, pastor Yoshitaka Ikarashi, 36, convenience store manager Akiko Iseki, 59, and construction company President Yoshinao Kaneko, 58.
The number of eligible voters stood at 1,599,816 as of 7 a.m. Sunday.