Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike announced Friday that she aims to continue her fight against the novel coronavirus and help revive the capital’s economy by seeking a second term in the gubernatorial election on July 5.
“It was about four years ago, in 2016, that I stood here and announced my bid for governor,” Koike said during a news conference at the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building. “I carry the same feelings now as I did that day, the urge to be part of the city’s progress toward a better future for the capital’s residents.”
If elected, the incumbent said she would seek to improve the metropolitan government’s transparency, spending habits, child care policy and efforts to support women in politics.
Koike said she wants to focus her efforts on preventing, and preparing for, a possible second wave of coronavirus infections, and said she would prioritize the lives of residents amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic by bolstering the capital’s health care system through enhanced testing capacity and increasing the number of hospital beds.
Other gubernatorial candidates have called for the cancellation of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games. However, Koike believes the capital is capable of overcoming the coronavirus and hosting the global sporting event.
Whoever ultimately emerges victorious in the poll, maintaining the city’s ongoing response to the novel coronavirus and successfully hosting the 2020 Games, which have been postponed to next summer, are expected to take up most of their time in office in the near-term.
It will likely be months, if not longer, until a viable treatment or vaccination for the coronavirus is developed. Until then, whether Tokyo can — or should — host the event remains an open-ended question.
The incumbent has spent recent months working to contain the contagion in the capital, before and after the historic postponement in March of the 2020 Games.
While Koike is the apparent front-runner, other candidates are attracting attention.
Kenji Utsunomiya, a 73-year-old lawyer and former head of the Japan Federation of Bar Associations, announced his candidacy in late May. He has the support of the Japanese Communist Party, Social Democratic Party and the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan.
Taisuke Ono, vice governor of Kumamoto Prefecture, was endorsed by Nippon Ishin no Kai after announcing his bid earlier this month.
The campaign kicks off on June 18 and the election itself will be held on July 5, at which point the city’s 11.4 million registered voters will have the chance to choose the person at the helm of one of the biggest and wealthiest mega-cities in the world.
Koike, 67, spent nearly three decades climbing the political ladder to become the household name she is today.
She studied Arabic at American University in Cairo and received a degree in sociology from Cairo University. Afterward, she worked as an interpreter and later took a job as a news anchor in 1979.
She was elected to the Upper House of the Diet in 1992 and served as environment minister in 2003 under then-Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi. She briefly held the defense minister’s post in 2007 — for less than two months — under Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
A key figure in the upper echelons of the Liberal Democratic Party until four years ago, when she abandoned the ruling party to seek the governorship, she supports the revision of history textbooks and was one of the five secretaries-general of the Diet member’s Committee of Nippon Kaigi, or Japan Conference, the country’s biggest right-wing organization.
In 2016, she was elected governor of Tokyo following a surprising landslide victory in which she defied her own party and triumphed over two major candidates to become the capital’s first female governor.
Koike has long been criticized as a populist with little to show in the way of policy, but her political prowess and media savvy — not to mention the fact that Tokyo avoided the kind of coronavirus outbreak occurring in many other parts of the world — give the incumbent an undeniable advantage over the other, lesser known candidates.
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