A candidate backed by the pro-nuclear Liberal Democratic Party won the Niigata gubernatorial election June 10. TEPCO’s Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plant in the Niigata prefecture is the largest nuclear power plant in the world. In December 2017, the Nuclear Regulation Authority completed its major safety screenings of the No. 6 and No. 7 reactors at the plant.
Hideyo Hanazumi, a candidate backed by the Liberal Democratic Party and Komeito, celebrates his election victory in Niigata on June 10.
June 11, 2018
NIIGATA–A candidate backed by the pro-nuclear Liberal Democratic Party won the Niigata gubernatorial election June 10, but he remained unclear on whether he would approve the restart of Japan’s largest nuclear power plant.
Hideyo Hanazumi, 60, former vice commandant of the Japan Coast Guard, defeated two other candidates, including Chikako Ikeda, 57, a former Niigata prefectural assemblywoman who was supported by five opposition parties.
The election was held to replace Ryuichi Yoneyama, 50, who resigned in April over a sex scandal.
Yoneyama had shown a cautious stance toward approving the resumption of operations at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plant in the prefecture.
In December 2017, the Nuclear Regulation Authority completed its major safety screenings of the No. 6 and No. 7 reactors at the plant. That shifted the focus on whether the Niigata prefectural government and the two municipal governments of Kashiwazaki and Kariwa would give their consent to bring the reactors online.
However, Yoneyama said he first wanted to find the cause of the disaster at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant.
Hanazumi, who also received support from Komeito, the junior partner in the ruling coalition, took a cautious stance on the reactor restarts during the campaign.
When his victory became certain on the night of June 10, Hanazumi said: “I will firmly maintain the (prefectural government’s) work (of looking into the cause of the Fukushima accident). Based on the results of the work, I will make a judgment as the leader (of Niigata Prefecture).”
He also referred to the possibility of holding another election when he decides on whether to approve the reactor restarts.
Hanazumi, who was vice governor of Niigata Prefecture from 2013 to 2015, garnered 546,670 votes, compared with 509,568 for Ikeda, who was backed by the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, the Democratic Party for the People, the Japanese Communist Party, the Liberal Party and the Social Democratic Party.
Another candidate, Satoshi Annaka, 40, a former Gosen city assemblyman, received 45,628 ballots.
Voter turnout was 58.25 percent, up 5.2 points from 53.05 percent in the previous gubernatorial election held in 2016.
During the campaign, Hanazumi kept a distance from the Abe administration and the LDP as criticism mounted against the prime minister over scandals related to school operators Moritomo Gakuen and the Kake Educational Institution.
Ikeda had also pledged to take over Yoneyama’s work concerning the Fukushima disaster, and she blasted the Abe administration for its pro-nuclear stance.
However, she was unable to effectively differentiate herself from Hanazumi over the restarts at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant.
In Tokyo, LDP Secretary-General Toshihiro Nikai told reporters that Hanazumi’s victory is good news for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s attempt to seek a third term in the LDP presidential election in autumn.
“It’s certain that favorable winds have begun blowing,” Nikai said.