• Kyodo

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Opposition parties expressed regret about failing to build a united front against Gov. Yuriko Koike in Sunday’s gubernatorial election and pledged to field unified candidates against the ruling coalition in the next Lower House election.

“Taking opposition parties’ failure to unite as a lesson, we want to try to set up one-to-one fights between an opposition-backed candidate and a ruling coalition-led one in the House of Representatives election,” said Akira Nagatsuma, election chief of the main opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan.

Nagatsuma was referring to the next Lower House election that must be held by October 2021.

Looking back on the campaign for Sunday’s election, Nagatsuma said he found it difficult to convey to the public the policies and personality of Kenji Utsunomiya, a lawyer backed by the CDP and two other opposition parties, as the coronavirus spread made it hard for organizers to notify voters of stump speeches.

Tadatomo Yoshida, secretary general of the Social Democratic Party, said the votes against Koike were “scattered” and struggled to gain ground.

“We need to review the campaign and consider measures to strengthen our form for the House of Representatives election,” Yoshida said.

Utsunomiya was also supported by the SDP and the Japanese Communist Party, while Taisuke Ono, a former vice governor of Kumamoto Prefecture, was backed by the opposition Nippon Ishin no Kai.

Another opposition party, the Democratic Party for the People, told its members to vote freely.

Akira Koike, second-in-command of the Communist Party, accused Koike over appearing on TV in her duties as governor during the election campaign and avoiding debates with other candidates.

“I don’t want people to think that she has won their confidence” through the election, he said.

In contrast, some members of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party and its junior coalition partner Komeito took a more positive view of the election’s outcome. The LDP and Komeito did not field a candidate against Koike, a former LDP lawmaker who ran as an independent.

“I want to do my best to cooperate with Ms. Koike” on the coronavirus response and other issues, said Ichiro Kamoshita, head of the Tokyo chapter of the LDP and a former environment minister.

“The residents of Tokyo calmly chose who would be the most appropriate governor to handle the coronavirus crisis,” he told reporters at the party’s headquarters, adding that LDP Secretary-General Toshihiro Nikai had offered his congratulations upon hearing of Koike’s win. Nikai had voiced support for her before the election.

Komeito election chief Shigeki Sato said he hopes Koike will “firmly proceed with preventing the spread of the virus and advancing economic activity.”

But some warned the LDP’s decision not to field a candidate against Koike, despite her wresting control from the ruling party in a metropolitan assembly election in 2017, could lead to the degradation of its organizational power.

The result “will definitely have an impact on national politics as well,” a former Cabinet minister said.

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