Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Tokyo re-elects nationalist governor

Source: CNN.

April 8, 2007

TOKYO, Japan (AP) -- Tokyo's outspoken nationalist governor was re-elected Sunday despite his waning popularity, signaling Japan's acceptance of its resurgent right wing.

Shintaro Ishihara, once seen as a contender for prime minister, is known for his criticism of China, North Korea, foreigners, immigrants, women -- and even the French language. He has ignited outrage by ordering public school teachers in Tokyo to sing Japan's national anthem at school functions or face punishment.

"Tokyo residents' good sense brought this result," a beaming Ishihara told supporters at campaign headquarters after Japanese media reported he was certain to win citing exit polls, securing his third four-year term.

Ishihara, 74, received 50.1 percent of votes, while the runner-up was trailing at 30.3 percent with 99.22 percent of the total votes counted as of early Monday, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government said on its Web site.

Sunday's vote came ahead of nationwide parliamentary polls in July and was seen as a test of support for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, also known for his hawkish and nationalist stance.

Since taking office in September, Abe's conservative government has bolstered Japan's international military role and amended the constitution to require schools to teach patriotism.

Tokyo was among the 13 regions that held gubernatorial elections Sunday.

Three newcomers backed by Abe's ruling Liberal Democratic Party won, public broadcaster NHK said, giving a boost to Abe's popularity, which has been slipping recently.

Though he won, Ishihara's take in the vote was smaller than the 70 percent he garnered in 2003, underscoring voters' discontent amid allegations of cronyism and expense-fund abuse. But the LDP and its coalition partner, New Komeito, gave him support during the campaign while Shiro Asano, his major rival, was backed by the opposition Democratic Party.

Some voters said they preferred to stick with Ishihara rather than choose someone new.

"There were some scandals during his eight years," said Akinori Otake, 32, an engineer who said he voted for Ishihara. "But he didn't do anything so terrible, either. It's better to keep things as they are now, rather than taking a chance with another person."

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