Yasutomo Suzuki Wins Shizuoka Gubernatorial Election, Dealing Blow to LDP

Yasutomo Suzuki Wins Shizuoka Gubernatorial Election, Dealing Blow to LDP

Yasutomo Suzuki Wins Shizuoka Gubernatorial Election, Dealing Blow to LDP

Yasutomo Suzuki, a former mayor of Hamamatsu, emerged victorious in the Shizuoka gubernatorial election on May 26, 2023. His win dealt a significant blow to the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), marking another setback for the party following its losses in the Lower House by-elections in April.

Suzuki, 66, secured the support of the main opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan (CDP) and the Democratic Party for the People (DPP). He defeated Shinichi Omura, 60, the LDP-backed former vice governor, and four other candidates.

The central issue of the election revolved around the proposed construction of a section of the magnetic-levitation (maglev) Chuo Shinkansen Line through Shizuoka Prefecture by Central Japan Railway Co. (JR Tokai). The previous governor, Heita Kawakatsu, had opposed the project due to environmental concerns.

Both Suzuki and Omura expressed support for the maglev project, provided it did not harm the environment. This led to the election also serving as a gauge of voter sentiment towards the national parties.

The outcome in Shizuoka reflected the ongoing public discontent with the LDP's political fund scandal and Prime Minister Fumio Kishida's handling of the matter. Suzuki pledged to promote the maglev project after addressing water and environmental concerns, indicating his intention to accelerate discussions with JR Tokai and the central government regarding construction work in the prefecture.

The election was triggered by Kawakatsu's resignation in April following remarks perceived as occupational discrimination. Kawakatsu had rejected JR Tokai's bid to work on the maglev line in Shizuoka Prefecture, citing the need to protect the Oigawa river's water resources and the Southern Alps' natural environment.

Suzuki, a former Lower House member with four terms as Hamamatsu mayor, enjoys strong support in the prefecture's western region. Leveraging his name recognition, he campaigned on his achievements in industrial promotion. Leaders of the CDP and DPP actively campaigned for him, targeting voters critical of the LDP.

Despite emphasizing his experience as a bureaucrat, Omura's campaign fell short. Suzuki's victory underscores the ongoing challenges faced by the LDP and the public's desire for change.