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Tokyo election board picks Feb. 9 for governor’s race

by Masaaki Kameda

Staff Writer

The special election to pick the successor to Naoki Inose as Tokyo governor will be held Feb. 9, the metropolitan election board announced Wednesday, while speculation continued over potential candidates.

Potential names swirling in the rumor mill include former health minister Yoichi Masuzoe, ex-Lower House member Hideo Higashikokubaru and even former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi.

The Public Offices Election Law states that a gubernatorial election must be held no later than 50 days after a prefectural assembly president informs the election board of a governor’s resignation. Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly President Toshiaki Yoshino notified the board of Inose’s resignation Tuesday morning.

Feb. 9, the latest possible date, was chosen to secure enough time for both the election board and the candidates to prepare, according to board official Takahiro Yamazaki.

“We have nine consecutive yearend and New Year’s holidays through Jan. 5, and a three-day weekend from Jan. 11 to 13,” Yamazaki said. “We decided to hold the election with enough preparation time to carry out a proper campaign.”

As of Dec. 2 there were about 10.8 million eligible voters in Tokyo, which has a population of 13.2 million.

Yamazaki said the election will cost about ¥4.9 billion, paid for under a supplementary budget for the current fiscal year.

With the election day officially determined, efforts to choose candidates are expected to be on a full scale by major parties. The official start of the campaign is Jan. 23, so that’s the deadline for filing candidacies.

A recent survey conducted by the Liberal Democratic Party found that Masuzoe and Higashikokubaru have high favorability, according to media reports.

Masuzoe, who ran for Tokyo governor in 1999 but lost to Shintaro Ishihara, has reportedly said he has no plans yet to enter the contest.

Higashikokubaru, who resigned last week from the Diet and has been rumored to be interested in running, said again he has no intention of throwing his hat in the ring. He ran in Tokyo in 2011, but he also lost to Ishihara.

The Mainichi Shimbun reported Wednesday that Your Party leader Yoshimi Watanabe tried to recruit former Prime Minister Junichiro Koziumi, now a vocal opponent of nuclear power, but he turned down the overture.