Seventy-year-old university professor and social critic Keiko Higuchi announced Wednesday that she will run in the April 13 Tokyo gubernatorial election.

Higuchi is the third person to enter the race, in which highly popular incumbent Shintaro Ishihara — who announced his intention to run again earlier this month — is the favorite.

“I would open up policymaking in a way that differs from (Ishihara), who has been consulting with only a small number of his staff members before making important decisions,” Higuchi told a news conference.

Higuchi, who is backed by women’s groups, stressed that she would place emphasis on the welfare of Tokyo residents, especially women, children and the elderly.

She said she will run as an independent, but added that she would welcome the support of political parties, including the Democratic Party of Japan.

“To defeat the governor, I would like to get backing from any groups that support my political platform, which I’ll announce soon,” she said.

Higuchi is a professor of welfare and women’s issues at Tokyo Kasei University. She is an authority on such topics as women’s studies and the aging population.

The DPJ has been looking for weeks for its own candidate and even once considered fielding Higuchi on its ticket. The DPJ is now likely to throw its support behind Higuchi, although some party members at the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly say they plan to back Ishihara.

Ishihara has the support of the Liberal Democratic Party and New Komeito.

The Japanese Communist Party has endorsed Yoshiharu Wakabayashi, chairman of the party’s Tokyo metropolitan committee, as its candidate for the race. Wakabayashi’s official campaign will start March 27.

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