Masuzoe seen leading race for Tokyo governor


Endorsed by local assembly members from the Liberal Democratic Party and its coalition partner, New Komeito, former Health, Labor and Welfare Minister Yoichi Masuzoe is leading other candidates in the Tokyo gubernatorial race, an analysis of the campaigning by Jiji Press shows.

Tokyo residents go to the polls Sunday to choose a successor to Naoki Inose, who resigned in late December over a money scandal. Halfway through the campaign period, Masuzoe, 65, is seen running ahead of three key rivals.

Former Prime Minister Morihiro Hosokawa, 76, is effectively backed by the Democratic Party of Japan, Yui no To (Unity Party) and Seikatsu no To (People’s Life Party).

Kenji Utsunomiya, 67, former president of the Japan Federation of Bar Associations, was endorsed by the Japanese Communist Party and the Social Democratic Party.

Ex-Air Self-Defense Force Chief of Staff Toshio Tamogami, 65, has no support from political parties.

Front-runner Masuzoe has been giving speeches around Tokyo with LDP and New Komeito members of the Diet from constituencies in the capital as well as members of the metropolitan assembly.

The LDP provides active support for Masuzoe. In a bid to fire up the campaign, the party held a rally on Jan. 27 for the former LDP official, with members of various support groups. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, the LDP head, also has joined the pro-Masuzoe campaign.

Hosokawa is calling for an immediate end to nuclear power generation in Japan. He is trying to lure unaffiliated voters with stump speeches on the street delivered with Junichiro Koizumi. The popular former prime minister is now touting a nuclear-free energy policy.

But Hosokawa is struggling to win the support of young voters who don’t remember him from his time as prime minister in 1993-1994. Also, his late official announcement as a candidate, on Jan. 24, has not given him much time to get his name out there.

Utsunomiya, another anti-nuclear candidate, underlines his record as a lawyer to cast himself as a poverty fighter. He is also calling for measures to prevent death from overwork and to increase welfare benefits. His success likely depends on how many independents he can get to join party-affiliated voters.

Former ASDF chief Tamogami favors using nuclear power to revive the economy. He also calls for measures to prepare for a large-scale inland earthquake expected to hit the capital directly.

Tamogami has teamed up with former Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara, co-leader of Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Restoration Party), in hopes of winning independent votes as well as dissident votes from LDP supporters.

Izu Oshima whistle-stop


Major candidates running in Sunday’s Tokyo gubernatorial election have extended their campaign trails to Izu Oshima Island, where 39 residents were killed in October by a mudslide triggered by a large typhoon.

There are some 6,900 voters, or just 0.06 percent of eligible voters, on the Pacific island south of the capital.

But four top candidates — Yoichi Masuzoe, Morihiro Hosokawa, Kenji Utsunomiya and Toshio Tamogami — have all visited to pitch their policies on disaster preparedness.

“I’ve never experienced an election like this before,” local taxi driver Hitoshi Kurata, 67, said as he expressed surprise. “I thank all of them for coming to see the present situation of this island. It’s also good to have direct contact with candidates.”