Hokkaido IR hopes rest with Naomichi Suzuki

Naomichi Suzuki, the 37-year-old mayor of Yubari city, has stepped forward as the ruling party’s presumptive candidate for governor of Hokkaido prefecture. With his candidacy will lay the prospects for the Tomakomai IR development project to go forward.

Suzuki served two terms as mayor of Yubari, and at the time of his first election in 2011 he was the youngest city mayor in the nation. Many within the ruling Liberal Democratic Party had preferred other candidates to Suzuki, but in the end his willingness to take on the challenge and the lack of more established figures ready for the job allowed him to prevail.

The opposition forces, meanwhile, are having similar difficulty finding a strong candidate willing to run in the Hokkaido gubernatorial race.

For the Tomakomai IR bid to go forward this year, three basic conditions will have to fall into place in April. First, Suzuki, who has outlined no position on IR development, will need to in fact be in favor of the policy. Second, he must win his election as governor. Third, conservative forces will need to maintain a majority in the Hokkaido Prefectural Assembly. Failure of any one of these conditions will likely doom local IR development efforts.

The political challenge was underlined again on Monday when a prefectural explanation meeting about IR development gathered about a hundred local citizens in Tomakomai. Most of the residents who gave opinions strongly opposed the creation of an IR in their city and vocally confronted the officials with tough questions.