Official campaigning kicked off Friday for the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly election, an event regarded as the prelude to a Lower House election to be held by this fall.
The main focus of the July 4 election is whether the Liberal Democratic Party and the Komeito party — which form the ruling coalition in parliament — will prevail over Tomin First no Kai, or Tokyoites First party, founded by Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike.
The assembly election has drawn public attention and strong support from each participating party, as it is regarded as a litmus test for the forthcoming parliamentary election.
Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, president of the LDP, attended a rally to give a morale boost to his party, and urged them to help all LDP candidates get elected.
"It is the ruling party's responsibility to protect the lives and livelihood of the people under the coronavirus pandemic," Suga said at the party headquarters.
Yukio Edano, leader of the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, and others took to the streets to deliver stump speeches for their candidates.
Chiharu Araki, a representative of Tomin First said, "We have to commit ourselves to protecting the livelihood of Tokyoites."
Koike, who currently serves as special adviser to Tomin First, has been hospitalized due to severe fatigue since Tuesday and it is unclear whether she will be able to come out to support Tomin First during the campaign.
Major issues for the nine-day race include parties' responses to the coronavirus pandemic and how to stage the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics.
The LDP and Komeito, the second and third largest parties in the capital's assembly, are vowing to hold safe and secure games. Tomin First — the largest force, holding 46 of the chamber's 127 seats — calls for the hosting of the event without spectators.
The Japanese Communist Party demands that the Tokyo Games be canceled, while the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan is pushing for another postponement or cancellation.
The LDP aims to bounce back from the historic loss in the last election in 2017, in which it captured only 23 seats, down from 57 before the poll.
The defeat came as Komeito had cooperated with Tomin First, a regional party for which Koike currently serves as a special adviser, in the election.
But this time, Komeito is teaming up with its old ally LDP, given the need to prevail in the upcoming House of Representatives election.
The LDP and Komeito are aiming to secure a combined majority, while Tomin First is aiming to retain its seats.
About 270 candidates are running in the Tokyo assembly poll, according to a Kyodo News tally, with 60 from the LDP, followed by 47 from Tomin First.
The JCP and the CDP field 31 and 28 candidates, respectively, followed by Komeito with 23, among others.
As of 11:30 a.m. Friday, 263 people had filed their candidacies, including 76 women, the highest ever in the assembly election and beating the previous high of 65 in 2017, according to election administration commissions in the capital, which has over 11 million registered voters.
Candidates are being forced to fight an unconventional campaign as rallies and events have been canceled or scaled down due to concerns over the risk of coronavirus infections, with many of them using social media.
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