Vote Counting Underway In Japanese Local Elections

Vote counting underway in Japanese local elections

Vote counting continues here in Japan just hours after the polls closed in local elections across the country. Thousands of seats are up for grabs, including for governors, mayors and local assembly members.

National parties have campaigned fiercely, framing the local elections as a bellwether for Upper House elections this summer.

NHK's election desk is already projecting winners of all 11 gubernatorial races based on exit polls and other information.

Former Osaka mayor Hirofumi Yoshimura is projected to become the next governor of Osaka, winning one of the most closely watched races.

He's a member of Osaka Ishin no Kai. The party campaigned on what's known as the "Osaka metropolis plan", which would abolish Osaka City and reorganize it into special wards just like Tokyo. It claims their plan will cut costs by streamlining overlapping city and prefectural services.

Yoshimura said, "During the campaign, I felt many people approved of our efforts and wanted us to push forward with the metropolitan plan."

Former governor Ichiro Matsui also ran under the party banner and is projected to win the Osaka City mayoral race. The two politicians had stepped down to run for each other's post to bolster support for their metropolis plan.

Matsui said, "I believe we have gained a mandate that the prefectural and city governments should continue to work together to make Osaka a good place to live."

Hokkaido was the only gubernatorial race where ruling and opposition blocs directly faced off. Naomichi Suzuki is projected to win.

He's supported by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's Liberal Democratic Party and its coalition partner, Komeito. Suzuki is on track to become the youngest governor in the country at 38 years old.

In Kanagawa, incumbent Yuji Kuroiwa is projected to win a third consecutive term in office.

In Fukui, former vice governor Tatsuji Sugimoto is projected to win for the first time.

In Mie, incumbent Eikei Suzuki is projected to secure his third term.

Incumbent Nara governor Shogo Arai is projected to secure his fourth term.

In Tottori, incumbent Shinji Hirai is projected to secure his fourth term.

Former Internal Affairs Ministry official Tatsuya Maruyama is projected to become the next governor of Shimane.

Incumbent Kamon Iizumi is projected to win in Tokushima for the fifth consecutive time.

In Fukuoka, incumbent Hiroshi Ogawa is projected to win for the third time in a row.

And in Oita, incumbent Katsusada Hirose is projected to secure his fifth term.

Sunday's elections will also determine the mayors of 6 big cities, along with 17 municipal and 41 prefectural assemblies.