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Monday, Aug. 31, 2009

Komeito, LDP crash in Kansai


Staff writer

OSAKA — The Kansai region's most prominent members in the Liberal Democratic Party and New Komeito lost their seats to younger challengers Sunday, part of the overwhelming national trend in favor of the Democratic Party of Japan and the other opposition parties.

News photo
Valiant effort: New Party Nippon leader Yasuo Tanaka arrives at his campaign headquarters in Amagasaki, Hyogo Prefecture, on Sunday. KYODO PHOTO

In one of the most closely watched races not only in Kansai but also the nation, former Nagano Gov. Yasuo Tanaka of New Party Nippon beat New Komeito's Tetsuzo Fuyushiba in a close battle that pitted one of Japan's most vocal opponents of public works projects against a former transport minister and one of New Komeito's most influential politicians.

It was a bad night for New Komeito in Kansai, which is the party's stronghold, as another veteran party member, former transport minister Kazuo Kitagawa, lost to Hiroyuki Moriyama of the DPJ.

Neither Fuyushiba nor Kitagawa registered themselves on the party's proportional representation list.

The DPJ's Moriyama told reporters that voters realized there was no reason to continue to vote for New Komeito if the LDP, its coalition partner, was going down in flames.

"Voters also decided it was time to elect politicians who will spend tax money on things local people need rather than on wasteful public works projects," Moriyama said after he was declared the winner.

The losses by two of New Komeito's top politicians is likely to further weaken the political power of Sokka Gakkai, the party's main supporter. The Buddhist organization heavily supported both Fuyushiba and Kitagawa during the campaign, bringing in volunteers from all over the country to help out.

The 85-year-old Taro Nakayama, a former foreign minister, lost to Osamu Nakagawa, 58, who was supported by the DPJ, in a single-seat district. Because of his advanced age, Nakayama could not register his LDP candidacy for proportional representation.

One of the Osaka region's longest-serving politicians and credited with getting Kansai airport built, Nakayama's support made or broke gubernatorial candidates and local politicians for many years.

It was Nakayama who convinced reluctant local LDP officials in 2000 to back Fusae Ohta, the nation's first female governor, and then back Toru Hashimoto in the 2008 election.

But Hashimoto shocked Nakayama and local LDP officials earlier this month when he announced he was backing the DPJ, and Nakayama took much of the blame in both Tokyo and Osaka for failing to convince him to support the ruling coalition, or at least remain neutral.


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