The ruling and opposition parties were caught off guard by the resignation of scandal-hit Tokyo Gov. Naoki Inose and are now scrambling to find candidates for the special election to pick his successor.
“We must find someone who can win,” Shigeru Ishiba, secretary-general of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, said at a news conference Thursday after Inose announced his resignation.
“It is impermissible to allow political stagnation in Tokyo. We must make a swift decision,” he stressed.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, president of the LDP, said Inose’s resignation was regrettable and that the party had yet to choose a candidate for the special election.
Abe called on LDP Election Strategy Committee head Takeo Kawamura on Wednesday, when new reports of Inose’s likely resignation circulated, to get the ball rolling.
Shigeru Uchida, an executive official in the LDP’s Tokyo office, phoned Ishiba on Thursday to convey the chapter’s intention to pick a candidate by the end of the month and asked for support from the national headquarters.
Analysts said the LDP will try to find someone who can also win the support of New Komeito, its coalition partner.
Possible candidates being bandied about include education minister Hakubun Shimomura, Upper House lawmaker and Olympic speed-skating bronze medalist Seiko Hashimoto and Lower House member and LDP public relations chief Yuriko Koike.
Shimomura has already said he won’t run. “I’m not willing to abandon my current job,” he told reporters Thursday.
Meanwhile, Yosuke Takagi, acting secretary-general of New Komeito, said his party had not decided on a candidate and that discussions had just begun.
Among the opposition parties, the Democratic Party of Japan set up a task force Thursday to speed up preparations for the campaign.
Although the DPJ is hoping to put forward its own candidate, observers said it may be difficult as the party is still reeling from its humiliating defeat in the Lower House election last December, when it was thrown out of power.
Still, Jin Matsubara, the DPJ’s Diet affairs chief, said the party hopes to give its full backing to someone who has planning ability, passion and a warm heart so as to make the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics a success.
Tadayoshi Ichida, secretary-general of the Japanese Communist Party, said at a news conference his party will field a candidate in cooperation with those aiming to innovate Tokyo politics.