One month remains until the official start of campaigning for the Tokyo gubernatorial election, with voting to be held on July 5. Consensus is growing within the ruling Liberal Democratic Party to accept the reelection of Gov. Yuriko Koike, while opposition parties continue to struggle to find a candidate to run against her.
LDP Secretary General Toshihiro Nikai met Friday with Hakubun Shimomura, chairman of the party’s election campaign committee, and confirmed Nikai’s decision to forgo running an LDP candidate. At a press conference on May 11, Nikai said, “It is important to settle with what is considered common sense,” hinting his belief that Koike’s reelection is desirable.
The LDP ran against Koike in the last election for governor in 2016 and the most recent election for the Tokyo assembly in 2017. Nikai continued to look for an LDP candidate for the upcoming Tokyo gubernatorial election, but he ultimately abandoned the search, as he could not find anyone who could match Koike’s name recognition.
Koike is expected to run for reelection in the Tokyo governor’s race, but she has not stated her intention to do so, due to her focus on dealing with the new coronavirus. At the same time, responding to the epidemic has enhanced her ability to communicate as the “face of the capital” day after day.
Even officials of the LDP’s Tokyo metropolitan federation have said that although they oppose Koike, she has done admirably. In March, the LDP in the Tokyo metropolitan assembly voted in favor of the metropolitan government’s proposed budget for the new fiscal year for the first time in three years.
Ruling coalition member Komeito maintains good relations with Koike in the Tokyo metropolitan assembly and welcomes signs of softening by the LDP. At a press conference on May 12, Komeito leader Natsuo Yamaguchi praised Koike’s efforts, saying, “She is working hard within the authority granted to the governor.”
The Komeito hopes to use the upcoming gubernatorial election as an opportunity to resolve the split between the LDP and the Tokyo metropolitan assembly. There is a strong consensus among senior officials that they want to work in tandem with the LDP.
However, that doesn’t mean that the grudge between the LDP in the Tokyo metropolitan assembly and Koike has disappeared. Many veterans are critical of Koike’s response to the new coronavirus, saying that her policies have not been accompanied by any substance, such as improving the health care system.
The LDP’s support for Koike is in flux, including whether to endorse her.
On the other hand, the opposition parties’ efforts to field a candidate have noticeably stalled. Last December, the four opposition parties — the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan (CDPJ), the Democratic Party for the People (DPFP), the Japanese Communist Party, and the Social Democratic Party — confirmed they would back a joint candidate.
However, CDPJ leader Yukio Edano said on a BS Fuji program on May 12, “We have no choice but to concentrate on measures against the new coronavirus. We don’t have the luxury of doing that to [select] candidates.”
Koike was a central figure in the split in the former Democratic Party in 2017, making it difficult for the CDPJ and DPFP to support her. A mood of resignation is spreading within the opposition, with a CDPJ senior member saying, “It can’t be helped that the election will be effectively an uncontested defeat.”