The victory of Yuriko Koike, who was not supported by any political party, in the Tokyo gubernatorial election came as a shock to both the ruling and opposition parties. The Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), which endorsed former Minister of Internal Affairs and Communications Hiroya Masuda, was forced to enter the election with a divided party. Its attempt to rally support for Masuda was unsuccessful. The four opposition parties, which endorsed journalist Shuntaro Torigoe, had wanted to go on offensive by grabbing the Tokyo governorship. They are now disheartened.
Economic Revitalization Minister Nobuteru Ishihara, head of the LDP Tokyo chapter, admitted despondently on the evening of July 31 that the election was a “total defeat.”
At first, the LDP and Komeito had thought that “Masuda’s tested administrative ability, his past achievements, plus his stable relations with the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly and the LDP Tokyo chapter would enable him to reverse the trend in the latter half of the campaign.”
The LDP campaigned for organized votes by tightening control on industrial groups and was able to “catch up to a certain extent,” according to a senior Tokyo chapter official. However, it was not able to come up with effective measures to win over the substantial number of unaffiliated voters in Tokyo.
Therefore, it was not able to broaden support for Masuda. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe did not even make the campaign speech the Masuda camp had hoped for, sending a video message instead.
Looking back at the campaign, one senior LDP official observed that “the party’s organizations had not functioned fully due to fatigue from the House of Councillors election.”
The LDP’s relation with Koike will be tested in the by-election on Oct. 23 in the House of Representatives 10th district of Tokyo, a vacancy resulting from Koike’s giving up her seat to run as governor. Koike may field a candidate close to her to consolidate her power, so it is possible that the “LDP Tokyo chapter versus Koike” paradigm may be repeated in the by-election. As a matter of fact, there are rumors that Lower House member Masaru Wakasa (elected on the proportional representation ticket), who supported Koike, may run.
Meanwhile, Democratic Party (DP) President Katsuya Okada is facing renewed criticism for announcing on the eve of the election that he would not run in the party’s presidential election in September.
There is criticism that he made the announcement at that particular time because he is likely to be blamed for the result of the Tokyo election and was forced to step down to evade responsibility, according to a DP source. It is reckoned that his thinking was that if he is able to evade responsibility for this election, he will be able to retain influence in the future.
There is also lingering discontent that the party leadership went over the head of its Tokyo chapter in its decision to endorse Torigoe. A party official stressed that “the leadership bears serious responsibility for going with a well-known candidate seen to have the potential to win in order to give priority to the opposition united front.” (Abridged)