National / Politics

Tokyo confirms it will hold vote for governor and assembly by-elections on July 5

by Ryusei Takahashi

Staff Writer

Tokyo will hold a gubernatorial election on July 5 next year, ahead of the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games on July 24, the capital’s election committee announced Wednesday.

Gov. Yuriko Koike’s term ends July 30 next year, and election law stipulates that gubernatorial elections must be held within 30 days of the end of a governor’s term. With the Olympic torch relay arriving in the capital July 10 and the opening ceremony two weeks later, the commission was left with few alternatives to scheduling the gubernatorial election for Sunday, July 5.

Official campaign periods will begin June 18 for the gubernatorial election and June 26 for the assembly by-elections in Ota Ward, Kita Ward and the Kitatama district.

“It’s not being treated like a normal gubernatorial election,” Koike told reporters after the announcement was made. While it is expected that she will run for a second term, the governor dodged a question about whether she would do so, adding that she is spending “every day diligently serving her role as governor.”

The election commission chose not to implement a special law that would have allowed it to move forward or push back the gubernatorial election, or shorten or lengthen the governor’s term, as was done following the Great Hanshin Earthquake in 1995 and the Great East Japan Earthquake in 2011.

“In both of those cases, a natural disaster made it physically impossible to carry out an election,” said Election Administration Commission Manager Ryuji Sato. “The elections next year will be held under different circumstances.”

This is the first time in the country’s history that the election date of a gubernatorial election has been decided so early, Sato said, as in the past the decision was usually made about eight months beforehand.

The decision to hold elections before the 2020 Olympics was made after a special election commission, which represents the 23 wards and 26 cities within Tokyo, submitted a request to the metropolitan government to bring the vote and its planning forward, citing concerns that staff, facilities and other resources may not be available because of the quadrennial sporting event.

The last gubernatorial election in Tokyo was held on July 31, 2016, after former Gov. Yoichi Masuzoe resigned following reports he had misused public funds. Koike, who had previously served as environment minister and defense minister, won the election with more than 44 percent of the vote.