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The Liberal Democratic Party is considering supporting Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike for re-election in the July gubernatorial race, a senior LDP member said Monday, a month ahead of the start of the election campaign.

Toshihiro Nikai, secretary-general of the LDP, said he has no objection to backing the incumbent governor in the July 5 poll at a news conference Monday.

Koike is widely expected to run in the election, though she has yet to officially declare her candidacy. In 2016, Koike, a former TV news anchor, became the first-ever female Tokyo governor after beating a candidate supported by the LDP.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe effectively endorsed his party’s plan not to field a candidate against Koike in a meeting with Hakubun Shimomura, chairman of the LDP’s Election Strategy Committee.

“Given that a state of emergency remains in place in Tokyo, we are not in a situation where we can field our own candidate” against her, Shimomura told reporters after a meeting with Abe.

The executive board of the LDP’s Tokyo chapter said Monday it will be briefed on the party’s plan for the election at some point this week.

Since running for governor without party approval, Koike has been at odds with the LDP’s Tokyo chapter, which she criticized as a “black box,” clashing over high-profile issues including the relocation of the Tsukiji fish market.

The Tokyo branch was seeking to field a candidate against Koike, who has been critical of Abe’s administration at times, after it suffered a crushing defeat against Tomin First no Kai (Tokyoites First), a regional party Koike set up, during the 2017 metropolitan assembly election.

The coronavirus pandemic has laid bare an intensifying rivalry between Abe — criticized for his slow response and a costly plan to distribute two masks to all households — and Koike, who has drawn praise for her leadership during the crisis.

Yuichiro Tamaki, leader of the opposition Democratic Party for the People, told reporters he will consider avoiding a confrontation with Koike as his party needs to discuss whether it is appropriate to challenge her at a time when she is striving to deal with the coronavirus outbreak.

Yukio Edano, leader of the main opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, declined to comment, saying only that his party is focusing on the coronavirus at the moment.

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