TOKYO: Key issues in the upcoming Tokyo gubernatorial election on Sunday include candidates’ responses to the COVID-19 epidemic and the postponement to next year of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics.
Major candidates generally aim to expand the metropolitan government’s support for its citizens’ daily lives and strengthen the Japanese capital’s medical capacity, in preparation for a second wave of COVID-19 infections.
The daily number of new infections in Tokyo bounced back above 100 on Thursday from lows below 10 last month.
Meanwhile, they are sharply divided over the postponed Tokyo Games as the future course of the epidemic remains uncertain.
Stepping up the fight against COVID-19
Taro Yamamoto, 45, leader of Reiwa Shinsengumi party, is keen to realize 100,000-yen benefits to Tokyo residents and a one-year tuition waiver at universities and high schools through the issue of metropolitan government bonds totaling 15 trillion yen.
Incumbent Governor Yuriko Koike, 67, emphasizes that the metropolitan government under her governorship has provided financial relief twice of up to 1 million yen each to small businesses that suspended operations to help curb the epidemic.
She also advocates the establishment of a Tokyo version of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC.
Kenji Utsunomiya, 73, former president of the Japan Federation of Bar Associations, calls for giving full-fledged compensation to those who comply with stay-at-home and business suspension requests.
He is also willing to shore up epidemic-hit cultural and art activities, including the management of live music clubs and movie theaters.
Taisuke Ono, 46, former vice governor of Kumamoto Prefecture, southwestern Japan, stresses the need to implement relevant measures for certain sectors, including nighttime businesses, while referring to infection estimates based on thorough infection monitoring, so that other sectors can remain active.
Takashi Tachibana, 52, head of NHK kara Kokumin wo Mamoru To, a party critical of public broadcaster NHK, or Japan Broadcasting Corp., is eager to provide support for the events and restaurant industries.
He proposes resolving the problem of crowded trains by raising fares during peak commuting hours.
Envisioning society in coronavirus age
While Yamamoto argues that responding to the current situation is more important than considering future issues, Koike presents the concepts of a new lifestyle to strike a balance between efforts to curb the epidemic and social and economic activities.
Utsunomiya claims that social priorities should be given to the people’s safety and daily lives, as well as social solidarity, rather than economic efficiency.
Ono calls for balancing infection prevention measures, including the use of teleworking, and economic activities.
Tachibana is opposed to excessive self-restraint from economic activities, suggesting that those who should exercise self-restraint are elderly and other people with higher infection risks.
Whether to hold the Tokyo Olympics next year
Yamamoto insists that the Tokyo Games should be called off, given that a COVID-19 vaccine has not been created. “It’s hard to say that visitors from overseas would be able to safely enjoy the event in Tokyo,” he has said.
Koike underscores her intention to realize the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics. “I’ll proceed in a way that can gain support from the metropolitan residents,” the sitting governor stressed.
Utsunomiya suggests that he would encourage the International Olympic Committee to cancel the Tokyo Games if related experts find it difficult to hold the event. “I would use funds saved from the cancellation for providing support to the residents.”
Ono proposes negotiating with the IOC for the Tokyo Games to take place in 2024. Tachibana also backs a possible further postponement of the event.