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Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Asano enters Tokyo race, hits Ishihara autocracy

Staff writer

Former Miyagi Gov. Shiro Asano officially announced his candidacy Tuesday for the Tokyo gubernatorial election in April, saying the capital's government needs to be cleaned up "before things get out of hand."

Asano's decision comes after weeks of speculation. He is now the leading contender against popular Gov. Shintaro Ishihara, 74, who is seeking his third term.

The former governor criticized Ishihara's top-down style and lack of transparency.

"I've heard criticism about Tokyo politics from all over the country," Asano, 59, told reporters at the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Office. The professor at Keio University served three terms as Miyagi governor until 2005 and also was a senior official at the health ministry.

He has made a name for himself creating national welfare strategies and for reforming the Miyagi government through greater disclosure of information.

Asano revealed some of his platform Tuesday, including improving metro disaster plans and programs for the elderly, preventing crime and cutting expenditures.

"Sweeping reforms over social expenses must be made," he said. Ishihara has been embroiled in a scandal recently about questionable expenses for overseas trips.

The Sendai native also suggested he may reconsider Tokyo's bid to host the 2016 Summer Olympics and consider if the costly project is suitable for the capital.

Asano appeared confident heading into the monthlong battle against Ishihara, who had a record-breaking 3.08 million votes in the 2003 election for his second term.

The Democratic Party of Japan announced Monday it would back Asano by not naming its own entrant in the race.

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The Japan Times

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