National / Politics

Japan opposition still seeking candidate for Tokyo governor race

Incumbent Yuriko Koike is riding wave of popularity as she leads capital's fight against COVID-19

Jiji

Major opposition parties seem to be having difficulties with fielding a candidate for the Tokyo gubernatorial election, scheduled for July 5.

Some opposition figures have resigned themselves to accepting the re-election of incumbent Yuriko Koike, 67. They see it as unwise to put up a challenger to the governor, who is riding on a wave of popularity amid the capital’s fight against COVID-19.

“We still have nearly a month” until candidacies must be registered on June 18, said Yukio Edano, head of the main opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, on Thursday.

The CDP, the Democratic Party for the People, the Japanese Communist Party and the Social Democratic Party had agreed to field a unified candidate for the Tokyo gubernatorial election.

But the political situation has changed due to the spread of the novel coronavirus. Koike took a leading role in dealing with the crisis, resulting in a spike in her media exposure.

Yuichiro Tamaki, the leader of the Democratic Party for the People, has sounded reluctant to battle Koike in the election, saying, “Should we stand in the way of the governor, who is the commander on the field?”

“We should not be involved in the Tokyo gubernatorial election,” a veteran opposition lawmaker said, noting that Tokyo already has about 5,000 infection cases. “It’s a loss by default.”

The opposition bloc has also been unable to find an ideal candidate.

In March, the CDP asked former vice education minister Kihei Maekawa, 65, to run for the office, but he declined.

Some had expected Taro Yamamoto, 45, leader of minor opposition Reiwa Shinsengumi, to run. But he said in late April that it would be difficult as he predicts a landslide win for Koike.

The JCP is expected to seek the candidacy of former Japan Federation of Bar Associations President Kenji Utsunomiya, 73. But the CDP and the DPP see him as too progressive.

The CDP’s Tokyo chapter is trying to persuade Renho, 52, to run. She was elected to the Upper House from Tokyo with more than 1.1 million votes in 2016. However, sources say she is unlikely to stand for the office.

The ruling Liberal Democratic Party has already given up fielding a candidate against Koike. The party headquarters is considering supporting her.

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