Yoichi Masuzoe’s ability to address a wide range of issues and the failure of his rivals to keep the public’s attention focused on nuclear energy were the keys to his victory in Sunday’s Tokyo gubernatorial election, experts say.
“The pledges on which Masuzoe put emphasis were comprehensive, and he didn’t repeat one particular issue,” Meiji University professor Yasushi Aoyama said. “He gave voters the impression he would be a governor with a sense of stability.”
Aoyama said Masuzoe succeeded in placing himself in the middle of the road on the issues, with former radical Air Self-Defense Force Gen. Toshio Tamogami on one side and anti-nuclear former Prime Minister Morihiro Hosokawa and lawyer Kenji Utsunomiya on the other.
“I don’t think Tokyo residents wanted radical changes,” Aoyama said. “They sought stability in the metropolitan government.”
Media surveys before and after the campaigning showed that a majority of the voters generally agreed that nuclear power should be an issue in the election, placing it third behind welfare and the economy.
“All in all, the main issue was not nuclear power for most Tokyo residents,” Meiji Gakuin University professor Tomoya Kaji said. “The camps that were calling for phasing out nuclear power were not able to make the matter an important issue.”
Aoyama, however, said the election didn’t see enough discussion of the matter. He said that if the candidates had taken nuclear energy more seriously, they would have discussed not only the makeup of Tokyo’s energy sources, but also how to deal with electricity prices, transmission and distribution after abolition.
“It was not good that the candidates didn’t provide a viable path to” zero-nuclear dependence, Aoyama said.
Moreover, it appears the anti-nuclear vote was split, despite recent requests by a group of anti-nuclear activists that either Hosokawa or Utsunomiya drop out. The two appeared to be running even.
According to a Tokyo Shimbun telephone survey conducted from Feb. 3 to 5 on 1,006 residents, the backing of the 53.3 percent of respondents who oppose reactor restarts was split among Masuzoe, Hosokawa and Utsunomiya, the former chairman of the Japan Federation of Bar Associations.
Meanwhile, Kaji said the 2020 Olympics and Paralympics played a large role in candidates’ campaigns.
Masuzoe emphasized that his key goal was to hold the best Summer Games ever.
Hosokawa and Utsunomiya said they would hold a simple Olympics and conduct reviews of the current plan, which critics described as extravagant.
“It’s a good chance to repair and strengthen much of the Tokyo infrastructure that was completed around the last Olympics in 1964. So, I guess many people thought they had to make the most of the opportunity,” Kaji said.
In the meantime, it appears that organized support played a role in Masuzoe’s victory over Hosokawa, despite the help from former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi.
Although both candidates ran as independents, Masuzoe received organized support from the Liberal Democratic Party and its junior coalition partner, New Komeito, as well as the Tokyo chapter of the Japanese Trade Union Confederation (Rengo).
Hosokawa, however, declined to accept support from any political party and tried instead to collect broad support from the unaffiliated swing voters.
In addition, Hosokawa’s late start prevented him from getting his name into voters’ minds. Although he revealed his plans to run on Jan. 14 in front of a contingent of reporters with Koizumi by his side, his official candidacy and policy pledges were not announced until Jan. 22, just a day before the election campaign officially kicked off.
Hosokawa said he regretted his late start.
“Because I had some hesitation about running in the election, preparation time was short,” he said in explaining the loss.
It was the third election in about three years since Shintaro Ishihara quit in the middle of his fourth term in 2012 to run in the Lower House election. Naoki Inose received a record 4.3 million votes to take his place in an election that drew nine candidates and a turnout of 62.60 percent.
About 10.68 million of Tokyo’s 13.2 million residents were eligible to vote in Sunday’s election.