|Miyazaki Governor Higashikokubaru|
MIYAZAKI -- Miyazaki Gov. Hideo Higashikokubaru has announced he will not seek re-election in the prefecture's December gubernatorial race as his term of office expires, hinting at his intention to make the leap to national politics.
"I've come to the conclusion that I won't run in the election. There is still a mountain of issues left, including the aftermath of the foot-and-mouth disease crisis, but I feel like I've reached the limit of what I can do as governor," Higashikokubaru, 53, told the prefectural assembly's plenary session on Sept. 29.
After the plenary session, the governor said at a press conference, "I want to take action to change the form of the nation. I will gradually think what to do in order to return political powers from Kasumigaseki (a district in Tokyo known as the headquarters of the central bureaucracy) to the people of the country."
According to sources close to the governor, Higashikokubaru has been considering establishing a new party with himself serving as party leader ahead of the next House of Representatives election, or standing for the Tokyo governor election slated for next spring. The Higashikokubaru prefectural administration will come to an end after his first four-year term of office.
After announcing his decision not to run in the Miyazaki governor race at the plenary session, Higashikokubaru also said that the nature of the central governance system must be changed. Regarding the upcoming gubernatorial election in Miyazaki, he told reporters, "I won't pick my successor. I want a person who can take over what I've been doing to be selected."
Higashikokubaru, a former comedian, was first elected as Miyazaki governor in the 2007 election after the previous governor was arrested over collusive bidding at the initiative of government agencies. Capitalizing on his name recognition, Higashikokubaru, as new governor, successfully boosted sales of local products, and received broad attention when he reformed the prefecture's bidding system for public works. After a July survey conducted by a local newspaper found that some 90 percent of the residents of Miyazaki Prefecture support Higashikokubaru, he was considered a certainty to be re-elected if he ran again for governor.
However, the charismatic governor made headlines when he expressed his intention to switch to national politics after he became frustrated with the financial and authority gaps between the central and prefectural governments. Before the House of Representatives election in summer last year, Higashikokubaru, who was asked to run on the Liberal Democratic Party ticket, said, "Are you ready to fight in the election while having me as a candidate for the next president of your party?"
Earlier this year, the governor clashed with the central government over the responsibility for security measures following the foot-and-mouth disease epidemic.
From the Mainichi Newspaper