Japan’s ruling party suffers poll setback

April 12, 2011 - 0:0

Shintaro Ishihara, the conservative governor of Tokyo, has been re-elected for a fourth term, shrugging off an early campaign setback when he was forced to apologize for calling the devastating March 11 tsunami a “divine punishment”.

The comfortable victory by Ishihara and other results from local elections around the country on Sunday marked a setback for the ruling Democratic party, which has struggled to maintain political momentum since its historic 2009 general election victory.
NHK, the state broadcaster, said the former ruling Liberal Democratic party had beaten the DPJ in most of the prefectural assemblies up for grabs.
A survey of voters carried out by Kyodo news agency found only 16 percent were inclined to back the DPJ at the next general election, compared with 31 percent who favored the LDP.
The election results are likely to renew pressure on Naoto Kan, prime minister, whose administration had been faltering before the huge tsunami that devastated Japan’s north-eastern coast and sparked a nuclear crisis.
Kan’s administration has seen its support rise since the disaster but the poor performance of DPJ-backed candidates on Sunday will give his opponents an opportunity to renew calls for him to step down and hold a new general election.
In Tokyo, Ishihara, an outspoken nationalist who was backed by the LDP, easily shrugged off a challenge from a successful businessman backed by local DPJ politicians to win his fourth four-year term at the age of 78.
Ishihara’s comfortable victory came despite criticism of his declaration shortly after the March 11 disaster that the tsunami was a “divine punishment” for an overly egotistical society. The governor, a former novelist, later apologized.
The disaster had largely overshadowed campaigning for the local elections, with media attention still largely devoted to the relief effort to devastated coastal areas and the battle to end the crisis at the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant.
Tokyo Electric Power, the plant’s operator, has been trying to stop further spills of highly radioactive water into the sea, in the wake of a series of leaks since the tsunami knocked out the plant’s safety systems.
The company said it was unclear whether an effort to dump relatively mildly contaminated water – needed to create storage space for the more dangerous water – had been successfully completed or might need to continue today.
Tepco said the planned installation of steel plates near one of the plant’s water intakes had been postponed and a “silt fence”, also intended to reduce the flow of highly radioactive substances into the sea, had yet to arrive at Fukushima Daiichi.
However, work at the plant had not suffered any big setbacks.
“It’s been quite a quiet day,” it said. (Source: Financial Times)