The nuclear meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant in 2011 probably played a major part in this year’s mayoral elections, as the incumbent mayor was overwhelmingly outvoted by a political novice. Kaoru Kobayashi, a former head of the Tohoku Regional Environmental Office of the Environment Ministry, surprised fourth-term seeking Mayor Takanori Seto who ran for the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and its junior partner, the New Komeito.
Kobayashi gained 72,441 votes while Seto only received 32,851 votes while the Japanese Communist Party candidate, Yutaka Yamada, received just 7,620 votes. Voter turnout was still low at 49.10 percent but better from the previous election’s 38.18 percent. Three other mayoral elections in the prefecture, in Koriyama, Iwaki and Tomioka, also showed the incumbents losing in the past few months. Analysts attribute this to the voter dissatisfaction with the way the government has handled the clean-up at the nuclear plant as well as the continued displacement of the residents living near the plant.
Kobayashi vowed to solve the problems facing Fukushima “head-on” and change the city from a by-word in nuclear disasters to “a city with bright hopes.” When he announced he was running for mayor in August, he wanted to use his experience in the Environment Ministry to come up with a platform that will help in the city’s reconstruction. Having no political party and experience, he started gathering support through a grassroots campaign, by contacting former high school classmates and even his relatives. His supporters relied heavily on the Internet to run his campaign while Kobayashi himself walked around the city to gather support. His base started to grow when the Iwaki incumbent mayor was defeated and people started believing he can actually beat an administration-backed candidate.
[ via Mainichi ]