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Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara on Friday formally declared that he will run in the April 13 Tokyo gubernatorial election, seeking a second four-year term.

The announcement was made during a session of the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly, ending months of speculation.

Many political observers had speculated that the 70-year-old politician, who has also served as a Diet lawmaker, was planning a dramatic return to national politics, although Ishihara denied these rumors.

Ishihara told the assembly that his re-election bid is based on his desire to change Tokyo in order to revitalize the entire country, which is facing a crisis due to a prolonged economic slump.

“The (first) four-year term was absolutely too short to produce satisfactory results,” he said. “The largest obstacle to realizing our policy plans was (the stubbornness of) the central government.”

As an example, Ishihara cited the fact that the central government has yet to seriously consider a metropolitan government proposal to counter air pollution in Tokyo and other major cities.

Ishihara, who has gained the support of the Liberal Democratic Party and New Komeito, is widely viewed as the front runner due to his popularity.

The Japanese Communist Party had already announced that it would field Yoshiharu Wakabayashi, chairman of the JCP’s Tokyo metropolitan committee, in the gubernatorial race.

The Democratic Party of Japan, the nation’s largest opposition party, has yet to find a candidate.

During his speech to the assembly, Ishihara outlined his platform, stating that he wants the Tokyo Metropolitan Government to set up a bank to support small and medium-size companies in Tokyo, upgrade nursery facilities, review existing metropolitan-run universities and create a new university.

He also voiced a desire to strengthen the police force and to establish casinos in the Tokyo waterfront area.

In terms of tackling the problem of declining tax revenues, Ishihara suggested that a new fiscal reconstruction plan be drawn up. He stated that the metropolitan government has enough potential to create 200,000 jobs.

“We have been planning to establish a bank in Tokyo for more than six months,” he said. “If the new bank was organized, the metropolitan government would invest in the bank in cooperation with major companies.”

More concrete plans regarding the bank will be put forward in April or May, Ishihara said. Foreign financial companies would not be excluded as business partners, he added.

Since his inauguration in April 1999, Ishihara has advocated the introduction of restrictions on diesel-engine vehicles and the imposition of taxes on major banks, based on their gross profits.

He has also called for the U.S. Air Force to return its Yokota base in western Tokyo.

Ishihara is a writer-turned politician. In 1956, he won the Akutagawa Award, the nation’s most prestigious literary prize, for his novel “Taiyo no Kisetsu” (“Season of the Sun”) when he was a university student.

Ishihara entered the political arena in 1968 by being elected to the House of Councilors. He served as environment agency chief and transport minister before leaving national politics in 1995.

Ishihara is also known for coauthoring “The Japan That Can Say No,” a book that suggests Japan should adopt a more nationalistic stance in its foreign policy dealings.

Due to his nationalistic and hawkish positions on many issues, Ishihara has stirred controversy both at home and abroad on several occasions during his governorship.

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