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Ex-PM Koizumi backs fellow ex-premier in Tokyo race

TOKYO -- Popular former Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi said Tuesday he was backing a fellow ex-premier in the race to become Tokyo governor, setting the stage for an electoral clash over nuclear power.

Morihiro Hosokawa, who served in the nation's top job in 1993-4 as head of a now-defunct coalition, announced his independent candidacy and scored a ringing endorsement from the influential Koizumi, with the two men both playing up their anti-atomic stance.

“I have made my decision to run in the Tokyo governor election,” Hosokawa told reporters after meeting Koizumi. “I have a sense of crisis myself that the country's various problems, especially nuclear power plants, are matters of survival for the country.”

The move positions him as the main alternative to the candidate backed by current premier Shinzo Abe and his pro-business Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), which wants to restart the nation's mothballed nuclear power plants.

Japanese voters have become wary of nuclear power since the tsunami-sparked disaster at Fukushima began in March 2011, but the issue failed to materialize in the national polls that brought Abe to power, with his opponents' apparent haplessness neutralizing their anti-nuclear stance.

Tokyo's governor oversees a budget of some US$60 billion and exercises control over the economic, political and cultural heart of Japan. The position is one of the most powerful roles in Japanese public life.

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Former Japanese prime ministers Morihiro Hosokawa, left, and Junichiro Koizumi speak to reporters after they met in Tokyo on Tuesday, Jan. 14 as Hosokawa announces he will run in Tokyo's gubernatorial election. (AFP)

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