Pro-IR incumbent cruises to victory in Wakayama mayoral race

    Wakayama Mayor Masahiro Obana on Sunday defeated his anti-casino challenger, Kumiko Shima, boosting the chances for an IR bid at the municipality’s Marina City location.

    The vote was not close: Obana gained 68,081 votes to Shima’s 28,145 votes.

    Kumiko Shima’s challenge was not a very strong one, since she was unable even to unite the opposition parties. Her candidacy was supported by the Japan Communist Party and the Social Democratic Party, but the most popular opposition party, the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, sat this one out; and the centrist opposition Democratic Party For the People threw its support behind Mayor Obana, as did the two ruling coalition parties, the Liberal Democratic Party and Komeito.

    There isn’t sufficient data about local public opinion in Wakayama city regarding the IR construction issue, but if her casino opposition provided Shima some degree of political momentum, it was far short of what she needed to unseat the incumbent.

    Nevertheless, Mayor Obana has taken the position that any casino built at Marina City must be limited to foreigners only, contradicting the current stance of the prefectural government and the expectations of the IR operators.

    Governor Yoshinobu Nisaka told Asia Gaming Brief in May that he has confidence that he can persuade Mayor Obana to change his stance regarding the foreigner-only casino in the months and years ahead. Nisaka, however, faces an election himself on November 25.