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Cablegate: Otsu Mayoral Election: Ldp & Komeito Defeat

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DE RUEHOK #0010 0242255
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 242255Z JAN 08
FM AMCONSUL OSAKA KOBE
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 0980
INFO RUEHKO/AMEMBASSY TOKYO IMMEDIATE 8118
RUEHKSO/AMCONSUL SAPPORO PRIORITY 0211
RUEHNAG/AMCONSUL NAGOYA PRIORITY 2324
RUEHFK/AMCONSUL FUKUOKA PRIORITY 0200
RUEHNH/AMCONSUL NAHA PRIORITY 0223

UNCLAS OSAKA KOBE 000010

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV JA
SUBJECT: OTSU MAYORAL ELECTION: LDP & KOMEITO DEFEAT
LABOR CANDIDATE


1. (SBU) LDP Incumbent Makoto Mekata won the Otsu
mayoral election after a close race with Kimiko Kise,
in the largest victory for the ruling coalition in
Shiga Prefecture in several years, and a disappointment
for the independent governor, Yukiko Kada. Mekata
beat Kise by only 3,600 votes, a margin of about three
percent. Ruling coalition junior partner Komeito
proved that it could still tap into its lay religious
organization to provide votes. Neither a politically
active labor movement, nor a focus on environmental
issues, was enough for the opposition to win this
election.

2. (U) There were three main candidates in the Otsu
mayoral election of January 20th: the JCP's Toshikazu
Inoue (55); Mekata (66), supported by LDP and Komeito;
and Kise (55), a businessperson fielded by the Rengo
trade union. Kise was heavily supported by Governor
Yukiko Kada's support organization, "Taiwa-no-Kai"
(Group for Dialogue), and endorsed by the opposition
Democratic Party (DPJ) and Social Democratic Party.

3. (SBU) Kise failed to translate her environmental
protection platform into a winning electoral strategy.
Kise called for an end to construction of the Ohtogawa
Dam currently planned for Otsu. The issue was not as
important to Otsu voters as the construction of a
shinkansen (bullet train) station in Ritto City had
been during the gubernatorial election in 2006.

4. (SBU) Kise's campaign manager, Kaoru Matsuda, told
poleconoff that his candidate was handicapped by a
short campaign period bisected by the New Year
holidays, when most of the country shuts down. She
entered the race late while she considered Rengo's
invitation to run. The incumbent had the advantage of
having strong name recognition. Voter turnout on
Election Day started strong among young, unaffiliated
voters, an important support group, but plummeted as a
snap cold spell dropped temperatures below freezing in
the evening.

5. (SBU) Coming on several high profile losses in Shiga
and around the region, the ruling coalition considered
Otsu a must-win race. By maintaining a disciplined
focus on national issues and his own achievements,
Mekata kept Kise's strong environmental message from
dominating the election. The coalition organized its
supporters effectively: 90 percent of Komeito
supporters, and an even higher proportion of
neighborhood associations, went to Mekata. Matsuda
noted with regret that "without Komeito, the LDP would
have surely lost the race." The union members and
environmental activists were energized and did their
best, but Matsuda credited the LDP/Komeito election
machine for having done even better this time around.

RUSSEL

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