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Tokyo Governor poll draws near as virus crisis continues

Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike speaks during a press conference at the Tokyo Metropolitan Government office, April. 7, 2020. (AFP)
Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike speaks during a press conference at the Tokyo Metropolitan Government office, April. 7, 2020. (AFP)
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19 May 2020 06:05:01 GMT9
19 May 2020 06:05:01 GMT9
The Tokyo gubernatorial election is drawing near, with incumbent Governor Yuriko Koike, who is expected to seek a second term as the head of the metropolitan government, attracting attention for her measures in response to the novel coronavirus pandemic.
With Koike likely to face no powerful rival candidates in the July 5 election, the country's ruling Liberal Democratic Party is seen opting to support her in the race.
At their meeting on Monday, LDP election strategy chief Hakubun Shimomura informed Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of the party's plans to give up fielding its own candidate for the gubernatorial election. The policy was approved by Abe, who is also president of the LDP.
The LDP plans to finalize its strategy for the Tokyo election by the end of this month, with supporting the incumbent governor possibly among options.
Meanwhile, opposition parties have been slow in joining forces for the election although only one month is left until the start of the election's official campaign period on June 18. They aim to put up a unified candidate against Koike.
The July 5 election will come as Koike is set to serve her full four-year term. This will be the first such gubernatorial election in the Japanese capital since 2011, after the three Tokyo governors before Koike resigned ahead of the expiration of their terms.
"We should try to regain control of the metropolitan administration by reviewing the past four years, but...," a Tokyo metropolitan assembly member of the LDP said.
In the previous 2016 gubernatorial election, the LDP's candidate was defeated overwhelmingly by Koike.
In the 2017 metropolitan assembly election, the LDP was beaten by Tomin First no Kai (Tokyoites first group), a regional party created by
Koike, losing its status as the largest force in the assembly.
The upcoming gubernatorial election was expected to be an opportunity for the LDP's Tokyo chapter to gain revenge against Koike.
Regarding Koike as a "promising candidate," however, LDP Secretary-General Toshihiro Nikai and other officials of the party's headquarters are moving to support her despite the Tokyo chapter's policy of putting up its own candidate, sources familiar with the situation said.
Some metropolitan assembly members of the LDP remain hostile to Koike as they have been at odds with her, including over the redevelopment of the site for the former Tsukiji wholesale food market in the capital's Chuo Ward, whose functions were taken over by the Toyosu market in neighboring Koto Ward in 2018.
The LDP chapter seemed to have come to terms with Koike by voting for the Tokyo metropolitan government's budget for fiscal 2020, which started in April. But a senior LDP member of the metropolitan assembly said, "Budgets and elections are different things."
"I believe that she is not suitable for Tokyo governor," another LDP member said.
Koike has also been drawing criticism from opposition parties.
Although Koike is behaving as if she has succeeded in dealing with the coronavirus outbreak, measures taken by the governor were not well-organized, said metropolitan assembly members of the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan and the Democratic Party for the People, both major opposition parties in national politics.
Opposition parties are struggling to field their unified candidate for the Tokyo gubernatorial election.
Taro Yamamoto, leader of Reiwa Shinsengumi, which was established last year and gained two House of Councillors seats in the July 2019 election for the upper chamber of the Diet, Japan's parliament, was once considered to be an opposition camp candidate in the forthcoming election.
But Yamamoto has sounded negative on running in the election, saying that his candidacy would be "quite difficult."
Koike has yet to clarify whether she will seek a second term. At a metropolitan assembly meeting to be held shortly, however, she is expected to announce her intention to run in the election, sources said.
Asked about the election at a regular press conference on Friday, Koike said: "I'm dealing with a far more serious issue. My biggest job is to tackle the coronavirus crisis steadily."
Tomin First no Kai and Komeito, the coalition partner of the LDP in national politics, are expected to support Koike in the election.
Koike is expected to limit her campaign in the election to the minimum while concentrating on coronavirus response measures. "Performing official duties (amid the pandemic) will be her strongest point," a Tomin First no Kai member of the assembly said.
Koike has launched a series of measures promptly in the fight against the coronavirus, including subsidies to businesses that suspended operations at the request of the metropolitan government.
But she has yet to achieve policy promises she made in the 2016 gubernatorial election, such as reducing the number of children in Tokyo on the waiting list for nurseries to zero.
Discussions on assessing Koike's achievements during her first term as Tokyo governor have still not been active in the shadow of the coronavirus crisis, pundits said.
JIJI Press
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