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Ex-health minister to push Olympics, welfare aid

Masuzoe to run for Tokyo governor

by Masaaki Kameda

Staff Writer

Former health minister Yoichi Masuzoe indicated to reporters Wednesday he will run for Tokyo governor next month.

“I have started seriously considering (running in the election). Essentially, I will run as an independent,” Masuzoe, 65, said, implying he will resign from Shinto Kaikaku (New Renaissance Party), which he launched in April 2010 soon after he left the Liberal Democratic Party.

Masuzoe said his main policy pledges will likely include efforts to hold a successful 2020 Olympics and Paralympics, and to enhance the welfare system and disaster preparation.

“Though we have only six years (until the Olympics), we can achieve significant reforms toward (2020),” he said.

“If those reforms are achieved, Tokyo can set a precedent for the rest of Japan, so I think we have to make all-out efforts to achieve that.”

He added that he would respond favorably to any offers from the LDP’s Tokyo chapter to hold policy consultations.

Masuzoe, who ran for governor of Tokyo in 1999 but lost to Shintaro Ishihara, is considered a major force in the Feb. 9 election.

The election is being held to replace Naoki Inose, who resigned last month over a dubious loan from the powerful Tokushukai hospital group.

The former Upper House member published an article Tuesday about the 2020 Summer Games in an online magazine. Masuzoe boasted he will “make the 2020 Tokyo Olympics the best Olympics ever,” and suggested he will take advantage of the sporting event for the nation’s growth.

“Tokyo has to be the reservoir of industries and human resources that leads the world,” he said in the article. “Tokyo should prepare the stage for competent personnel to make the best of their abilities, with a strong determination to change Japan and the world.”

He also pointed to the necessity of replacing the capital’s aging infrastructure to brace for major earthquakes.

Lawyer Kenji Utsunomiya, a 67-year-old former head of the Japan Federation of Bar Associations, and 66-year-old Toshio Tamogami, a former chief of staff of the Air Self-Defense Force, have already announced they will run for governor.

Several candidates, including ex-diplomat Shigenobu Yoshida and inventor Yoshiro Nakamatsu, better known as Dr. NakaMats and who has run in the past several Tokyo gubernatorial elections, held news conferences Wednesday at the metropolitan government building announcing their candidacies.

According to the metropolitan election board, as of Wednesday, 20 people, including Utsunomiya and Tamogami, had picked up the documents necessary for running in the election, though most of the other names remain unknown as they apparently haven’t decided yet to enter the race.

The official campaign period starts Jan. 23.

Information from Kyodo added