Yuichiro Ito was elected to a third term as governor of Kagoshima Prefecture on Sunday. Ito’s primary opponent was Yoshitaka Mukohara, the leader of a civic antinuclear group, who based his campaign on only allowing the restart of a local nuclear power plant on a conditional basis, with the end goal of having it shut down permanently. 64 year old Ito’s re-election platform was based on having the central Japanese government ensure safety and receive local acceptance before restarting the nuclear facility in Satsumasendai.
The most likely source of Ito’s victory was the support he received from the local divisions of both the ruling the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), and its opposing Liberal Democratic Party (LDP). Mukohara only had the support of the Japanese Communist Party and organized antinuclear activists. While Ito was supportive of restarting the Satsumasendai nuclear power plant under the right conditions, he did halt any ongoing plans to build a third reactor at the facility, something he had called for prior to last year’s Fukushima disaster.
The focus of this election was made on the fact that many of rural areas in Kagoshima are majorly dependent on the nuclear plant for jobs and to sustain their local economy. While residents are concerned about their safety, they know if the facility doesn’t return to operation, jobs will be lost and businesses will most likely have to relocate, further stripping the economy.