Saturday’s Nikkei and Yomiuri wrote that Prime Minister Suga’s grip on power could weaken considerably if former cabinet member Okonogi loses the mayoral election in Yokohama on Aug. 22. The dailies noted that even though the candidate’s strong opposition to the idea of the city hosting an integrated resort featuring a casino is incompatible with his advocacy of the project, the premier and the ruling LDP plan to mobilize all resources available to help Okonogi defeat the seven other candidates, including incumbent Mayor Hayashi and former professor of medicine Yamanaka, who is backed by the opposition bloc. According to Yomiuri, Mayor Hayashi tried to gain the prime minister’s support for her reelection bid in mid-July by assuring him her determination to attract a casino was steadfast, but Suga allegedly turned her down by saying he was committed to electing Okonogi, who has been his close confidant for years. The papers projected that the outcome of the race may determine whether the ruling party will continue to support Suga as the chief campaigner in the upcoming general election to be held within the next few months. The dailies added that the Suga administration’s handling of the COVID-19 outbreak will probably be another key campaign issue.
In a follow-up item, Sunday’s Yomiuri wrote that according to the results of its latest public opinion poll and a field survey, Okonogi, Yamanaka, and Hayashi are running neck and neck, followed by former Kanagawa Governor Matsuzawa, who gave up his Upper House seat to run for mayor.