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Fukushima Town Re-Elects Mayor Who Favors Rebuilding Area

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Nov. 21 (Bloomberg) -- Voters in Japan’s Fukushima prefecture, home to Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s crippled nuclear power plant, re-elected a mayor who vowed to rebuild a town evacuated after the March 11 earthquake and tsunami disaster.

The citizens of Okuma chose incumbent Toshitsuna Watanabe, 64, over Jin Kowata, who advocated making the government pay to relocate all 11,500 inhabitants, according to the town’s website. Residents went to the polls in an election delayed by seven months in a region where 150,000 people still live in temporary housing after they were forced to move because of radiation leaking from a nuclear power plant damaged by the tsunami.

The vote comes amid rising frustration with the pace of reconstruction from Japan’s biggest catastrophe since World War II. Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda’s government has pledged to increase decontamination efforts that will cost more than 1 trillion yen ($13 billion) and take more than 30 years.

“This is a different kind of agenda with dislocated people thinking about whether they can or cannot return home,” said Yasunori Sone, political science professor at Keio University in Tokyo. “Besides the voting turnout and who won and lost, Japanese must understand the implications that nuclear power isn’t just about being pro or con, but something that affects future generations.”

Fukushima prefecture spent 200 million yen more for this year’s elections than polls four years ago, according to the prefecture’s election committee. About 35,000 voters now live outside the prefecture, where melted fuel rods at the damaged nuclear plant spread radiation into the sea and air.

The opposition Liberal Democratic Party fielded 33 candidates for the prefecture assembly race, while the ruling Democratic Party of Japan put up 24. Before the election, the LDP had 26 assembly members, and the DPJ 16, according to prefecture chapters of the parties.

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To contact the reporters on this story: Sachiko Sakamaki in Tokyo at Ssakamaki1@bloomberg.net;

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Peter Hirschberg in Hong Kong at phirschberg@bloomberg.net

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