The ruling and opposition parties are waging an all-out campaign after the start on July 14 of the official campaign period for the election of the “face of Tokyo.” Despite the division of the party in Tokyo’s gubernatorial race for the first time since 1999, the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) is poised to support with its organizational prowess former Minister of Internal Affairs and Communications Hiroya Masuda together with Komeito. The Democratic Party (DP), the Japanese Communist Party (JCP), the Social Democratic Party, and the People’s Life Party are backing journalist Shuntaro Torigoe as their common candidate.
Fearing the impact of a divided party, the LDP assembled representatives of its support groups at the party headquarters on July 13 to appeal for support for Masuda. The LDP Tokyo chapter, in an attempt to impose discipline, issued a notice saying those who support former Defense Minister Yuriko Koike will be punished.
The ruling camp is concerned that compared with Koike and Torigoe, who have had extensive media exposure, Masuda is not as well-known. This is because the Tokyo gubernatorial election is often a popularity vote, and the votes of unaffiliated voters will determine the outcome. With the opposition parties all backing Torigoe, a senior LDP official predicts that “more votes will be needed to get elected, so we need to mobilize our entire organization.”
Meanwhile, a senior DP official is elated that the withdrawal of Kenji Utsunomiya, former Japan Federation of Bar Associations president who won more than 900,000 votes in the gubernatorial races of 2012 and 2014, on the eve of the start of official campaigning will mean that “Mr. Torigoe will be the sole recipient of votes critical of the administration.”
Although the four opposition parties’ united front was successful to a certain extent in the single-seat districts in the recent House of Councillors election, they failed to prevent the ruling parties from winning a majority of the contested seats (61). The DP leadership hopes to consolidate the opposition united front for the next House of Representatives election through victory in the gubernatorial race.
However, the DP’s main support group Rengo (Japan Trade Union Confederation) is allowing its members to vote freely in this election. There is an opinion in the DP that “Rengo’s votes will be split because it is averse to cooperation with the JCP.” There is also concern that “anti-LDP voters may opt for Koike, who failed to obtain the LDP’s endorsement.” (Slightly abridged)