TOKYO: Voting is underway at some 1,800 polling stations for a Tokyo metropolitan assembly election on Sunday, with a total of 271 candidates vying for 127 seats in 42 electoral districts.
The poll has been closely watched as a precursor to the next election for the House of Representatives, the all-important lower chamber of the Diet, Japan’s parliament, which must be held by this autumn. The results of the Tokyo election will certainly affect Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga’s maneuvering on dissolving the Lower House and strategies of both the ruling and opposition parties for the general election.
Attention has been paid to whether the country’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party and Komeito, the LDP’s coalition partner in national politics, can together secure a majority of the Tokyo assembly seats and whether regional party Tomin First no Kai (Tokyoites first group), for which Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike works as special adviser, can maintain its position as the biggest force in the assembly.
The election comes as the 23 special wards and other areas of Tokyo have been in a novel coronavirus pre-emergency stage since June 21 after a state of emergency over the epidemic ended the preceding day for the whole of the Japanese capital.
Voting will end at 8 p.m. (11 a.m. GMT), except in some areas, and vote counting will start immediately after that. Voter turnout as of noon stood at 9.54 pct, down from 14.66 pct in the previous Tokyo metropolitan assembly election.
Major issues in the election include responses to the coronavirus crisis and whether the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics, which were postponed by one year from 2020 due to the pandemic, should be held this summer as scheduled.
The 271 candidates include 47 from Tomin First, 60 from the LDP, 23 from Komeito, 31 from the Japanese Communist Party, 28 from the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, 13 from Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Innovation Party), four from the Democratic Party for the People and three from Reiwa Shinsengumi.
In the previous Tokyo metropolitan assembly election, Tomin First flourished to become the biggest force in the assembly, while the LDP won only 23 seats, the fewest on record for the party.
Before Sunday’s election, Tomin First had 46 seats, followed by the LDP, with 25 seats, Komeito, with 23 seats, the JCP, with 18 seats, the CDP, with seven seats, and Nippon Ishin, with one seat.
Voters who are infected with the coronavirus and unable to go out were allowed to cast their ballots by mail in the Tokyo assembly election, a measure taken for the first time under a special law that was enacted during this year’s regular Diet session.
In a two-seat electoral district, only two people–one from the LDP and the other from the CDP–ran, and they won the seats without a contest as a result.