Gov. Shintaro Ishihara of Tokyo announced Friday that he will run for a fourth term in the April gubernatorial election. At one point, it was reported he would not run. Behind his decision was strong encouragement from the Liberal Democratic Party. It appears that he was worried that none of the other candidates would continue his policy line.
It is shameful that the ruling Democratic Party of Japan has decided not to field its own gubernatorial candidate, although there was a rumor that government revitalization minister Renho would run. The DPJ’s decision is another blow to a party that has been on a losing streak in local elections. There are about 10.68 million voters in Tokyo, more than 10 percent of the nation’s voters. Tokyo is Japan’s center of politics and administration. Its general account budget for fiscal 2011 is more than ¥6.2 trillion. The function and power of the Tokyo governor are different from those of other prefectural governors. The outcome of the election will have a great impact on the administration of Prime Minister Naoto Kan.
Mr. Ishihara, originally a novelist, is a well-known figure. He is often criticized for making discriminatory remarks. His strength lies in his strong character and leadership, whether one likes him or not. His 12-year record as Tokyo governor is mixed. He reconstructed the metropolitan government’s finances, strengthened control of gas emissions from diesel-engine vehicles and pushed Haneda airport into going international. Yet, Shinginko Tokyo, a bank established on Mr. Ishihara’s initiative, has entered financial straits, and there is criticism that while he likes to pursue large-scale development projects, he does not demonstrate a strong interest in medical services and social welfare measures.
At least two other candidates will run in the gubernatorial election. The main issues include the relocation of the Tsukiji fish market, whether Tokyo should bid for the Olympic games and how to strengthen welfare policies. It is hoped that the candidates will make concrete policy proposals so that voters can choose a person who deserves to serve as the face of Japan’s capital.