Japan ruling party candidate elected Tokyo governor, aiding Abe

TOKYO Sun Feb 9, 2014 7:27am EST

1 of 2. Japan's former Health Minister Yoichi Masuzoe (C) and his wife Masami (front 2nd R) hold flower bouquets while posing with his supporters at his office in Tokyo February 9, 2014, following local media reports that he is sure to be elected as Tokyo's new governor.

Credit: Reuters/Yuya Shino

TOKYO (Reuters) - A candidate backed by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe won Sunday's election for governor of Tokyo, frustrating a rival's efforts to make the vote a referendum on the Japanese leader's pro-nuclear energy policy nearly three years after the Fukushima disaster

The widely-expected victory by former health minister Yoichi Masuzoe comes as a relief for Abe, who had suffered a rare setback in another local election last month.

The 65-year-old Masuzoe, backed by Abe's Liberal Democratic Party, was the winner by a wide margin, according to media exit polls. Even before most votes were counted, Masuzoe's opponents conceded defeat.

The winner's most prominent rival was former prime minister Morihiro Hosokawa, 76, who came out of retirement to run and - with support from charismatic ex-premier Junichiro Koizumi - had put opposition to atomic energy at the core of his platform in the race to lead the capital city of 13.3 million people.

Hosokawa came in a close third after lawyer Kenji Utsunomiya, who also opposes nuclear power, NHK public TV said. A half-hour before the polls closed, turnout was a mere 34 percent, well below recent polls, the broadcaster said.

"I will make Tokyo the world's No. 1 city," Masuzoe told supporters. "I want to work on social welfare, disaster preparedness, the economy and especially to make the Tokyo 2020 Olympics a success."

Masuzoe had not made energy policy a prime focus, although he said Japan should reduce its dependence on nuclear power in the medium to long term. After his victory was announced, he reiterated that stance, adding he wanted to raise the share of renewable energy sources in Tokyo's electricity supply.

Public trust in nuclear energy in Japan was battered by the March 2011 disaster at Tokyo Electric Power Co Inc's Fukushima nuclear power plant north of Tokyo, triggered by an earthquake and tsunami. It was the world's worst nuclear accident since Chernobyl in 1986.

SPLIT VOTE

Surveys have shown that most Japanese voters favour abandoning nuclear power, either immediately or in the longer term, but they also indicate that energy policy is not as important an issue for voters as jobs and the economy, an ageing population and welfare.

However, Masuzoe's win is unlikely to mean smooth sailing for Abe's efforts to restart reactors shut down after the Fukushima accident. This is because of delays in safety checks by a new atomic regulator and the need to persuade host communities to agree to the government's plans.

Hosokawa opposed Abe's plans to make nuclear power a core source of energy and to restart the reactors.

Addressing supporters, Hosokawa said he felt there was a gap between the results and the enthusiasm he felt on the campaign trail.

"I am very sorry that my efforts were insufficient and that I could not meet the expectations of those who supported me so earnestly," he said.

Some anti-nuclear activists had urged Hosokawa and Utsunomiya, who was backed by the Japanese Communist Party, to join forces to avoid splitting the anti-nuclear vote.

Hosokawa led an anti-LDP coalition that briefly ousted the long-ruling party in 1993 for the first time in nearly four decades, but he quit the next year over a financial scandal.

Koizumi, 72, was one of Japan's most popular leaders during his 2001-2006 term and was once Abe's mentor.

Both ex-premiers supported nuclear power while they were in office but changed their stance after the Fukushima disaster.

Former air force chief of staff Toshio Tamogami, who resigned in 2008 after denying in an essay that Japan was the aggressor in World War Two, came in fourth. The pro-nuclear power Tamogami heads the nationalist group "Gambare Nippon!" ("Stand Firm! Japan").

The election was held to replace Naoki Inose, who resigned in December over a financial scandal.

(Editing by William Mallard and Richard Borsuk)

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Comments (5)
Rhino1 wrote:
What else do you expect from brainwashed voters in a “brave new world”?

Now let’s fire all these nuclear power plants up again. Who cares. I am sure there is a space ship waiting in the dessert in Western Australia for all the billionaires, once this planet has become uninhabitable.

Good night and good luck.

Feb 09, 2014 7:54am EST  --  Report as abuse
Jingan wrote:
ruling shogunate families rotate pigs at the trough

Feb 09, 2014 8:20am EST  --  Report as abuse
HiroshiSuzuki wrote:
Tokyo Electric Admits Most Radiation Readings May Be Wrong
February 8th, 2014 Fukushima – SimplyInfo

Tokyo Electric has admitted a large number of Tokyo Electric radiation readings taken since 2011 may be wrong and much lower than reality.
An audit will be performed on old data from 2011 until October 2013. Tokyo Electric explanation is that high radiation samples had a “counting miss” where the total level of radiation in the sample is NOT accurately recorded. Some media reports questioned Tokyo Electric excuse.

Currently this is only calling into question all beta radiation readings taken. Neither Nuclear Regulation Authority or Tokyo Electric has mentioned similar problems with gamma readings but there have been other issues with measuring and laboratory processes since Nuclear Regulation Authority took over review of the Fukushima plant.

Some of the earliest beta radiation readings were taken when workers entered standing water in the unit 3 turbine building and received beta burns. The workers were NOT informed of the high radiation levels in the water before being sent in for the work. The workers have since sued Tokyo Electric for the workers’ injuries. Tokyo Electric incorrect readings would also impact estimates made of leaks to the sea from damaged tanks in 2013.

Feb 09, 2014 2:03pm EST  --  Report as abuse
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