The Liberal Democratic Party plans to field Yasushi Akashi, former U.N. undersecretary general, as its candidate for the Tokyo gubernatorial race, LDP sources said Wednesday.
The LDP’s Tokyo chapter had earlier pushed for fielding Koji Kakizawa, a Lower House member and former foreign minister, as the LDP candidate for the high-profile race, but party leaders eventually favored Akashi, 68, because he can also expect support from New Komeito.
Kakizawa later told a meeting of his Tokyo colleagues that he will not run for the gubernatorial race.
New Komeito support is deemed essential because the party is backed by Soka Gakkai, the nation’s largest lay Buddhist organization and an organization often viewed as a dependable vote-gathering machine for the party.
The LDP’s decision came just one day after Lower House member Kunio Hatoyama, deputy chief of the Democratic Party of Japan, the largest opposition party, announced his candidacy for the race.
Chimpei Nozue, a university professor and former Upper House member, and Mitsuru Mikami, an education critic backed by the Japanese Communist Party, have also said will run in the election.
On Wednesday, Yoichi Masuzoe, a former assistant professor at the University of Tokyo, said he will join the race as an independent.
Akashi, who served as chief of the United Nations peacekeeping missions in Cambodia and the former Yugoslavia, currently serves as head of the Hiroshima Peace Institute.
The focus of the election now appears to be on which candidate New Komeito will support. The party, backed by Soka Gakkai, the nation’s largest lay Buddhist organization, has made it clear that it will not field its own candidate.
The party had good reason for its hurried candidate selection.
When Hatoyama announced his candidacy, the move put greater pressure on the LDP to field a powerful candidate who was capable of beating the opposition Lower House member and bringing control of the metropolis back to the ruling party.
On Wednesday morning, Chief Cabinet Secretary Hiromu Nonaka indicated his support for Akashi as the party’s candidate, noting that he has played an active role in various U.N. peacekeeping operations and is an internationally minded person suitable for representing the capital. “We can send a strong message to the world if he becomes the governor of Tokyo,” Nonaka said.
Later in the day, Taku Yamasaki, leader of an LDP faction to which Kakizawa belonged, also expressed hope that Kakizawa will eventually agree not to run so Akashi can be the party’s sole candidate.