BY JUNKO WATANABE STAFF WRITER
Shigemi Kashiwabara after winning re-election as mayor of Kaminoseki, Yamaguchi Prefecture, on Sept. 25. (Shoma Fujimaki)
KAMINOSEKI, Yamaguchi Prefecture -- Shigemi Kashiwabara, the incumbent mayor who backed a plan to build a nuclear power plant in this western Japanese city, easily won re-election against an anti-nuclear opponent on Sept. 25.
In the first local government leadership election in an area where a new nuclear power plant is planned since the Fukushima disaster, Kashiwabara, 62, secured a third term with 1,868 votes. His opponent, Sadao Yamato, 61, got only 905 votes.
During the campaign, Kashiwabara said he would concentrate on town development and leave the issue of whether to construct the nuclear power plant to the central government.
"I still believe that there is no revenue that can replace that associated with nuclear power," he said after his victory. "It has become unclear how the Kaminoseki nuclear power plant will be handled since the Fukushima accident. We ask the central government to (make a decision) while taking our stance into account."
Yamato argued that there was no longer a national policy supporting nuclear power and called on residents to develop their town without relying on nuclear subsidies.
The accident at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant has forced Chugoku Electric Power Co. to suspend preparatory work for the Kaminoseki nuclear facility. Many residents suspect the plant may never be built, and Kashiwabara appears to have won support from these neutral voters as well as supporters of nuclear power.
Many voters apparently preferred Kashiwabara's local administrative skills to Yamato's experience as leader of an anti-nuclear organization.
A 71-year-old woman who works part time said she voted for Kashiwabara because she believed that he could revitalize the community.
"I am concerned about risks involved in a nuclear power plant, but our town will decline without it," she said. "I don't care whether it will be built or not."
The town has been divided between pro-nuclear and anti-nuclear camps since plans for the Kaminoseki nuclear power plant surfaced in 1982. Since then, pro-nuclear candidates have won all nine mayoral elections.