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Monday, 2 September, 2002, 07:36 GMT 08:36 UK
Reform champion wins big in Japan
Yasuo Tanaka is greeted by supporters following his victory
Support for Mr Tanaka shows the public wants change

Advocates of reform in Japan have received a major boost, with the victory of a provincial governor over his conservative opponents.

Nagano
Alpine Nagano is being littered with construction
Yasuo Tanaka was removed from office in Nagano prefecture after attacking vested interests in the construction industry.

He has now been returned as governor with a landslide election victory.

Mountainous Nagano west of Tokyo is the front line in a battle between those who want to change Japan and those that benefit from the status quo.

Colourful character

Mr Tanaka, a flamboyant novelist, became governor two years ago and immediately attacked vested interests with sharp cuts in public works spending.

The local assembly responded this summer - with a vote of no confidence.

But now Mr Tanaka is back with a resounding mandate - winning twice as many votes as his nearest rival. He promised to continue his reforms and to change Japanese society from his rural power base.

Mr Tanaka's attack on the construction industry goes to the heart of the debate about Japan's future.

Public works account for a substantial part of the national economy - and they mean votes and money for the Liberal Democratic party that has dominated for half a century.

Appetite for change

The reformers say that construction is out of control - it is bankrupting the country and destroying the environment.

Mr Tanaka cancelled work on seven new dams in Nagano - an Alpine region where it is already impossible to find a river that has not been dammed or lined with concrete.

National politicians are watching developments closely.

The Prime Minister, Junichiro Koizumi, came to office promising radical reform. But he has made little progress during his 16 months in office.

The vote in a once deeply conservative area shows that the electorate is anxious for change.

See also:

19 Jul 02 | Business
03 Jul 02 | Asia-Pacific
23 Apr 02 | Asia-Pacific
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