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Utter chaos reigns in the runup to the Tokyo gubernatorial election, the most important of all local elections to be held in April. The outcome of the preliminary battle is likely to have a great influence on national politics.

The battle began in early January, when Mitsuru Mikami of the Japanese Communist Party and former Upper House member Chimpei Nozue, an independent, announced their candidacies. Other aspirants and political parties were watching moves by Gov. Yukio Aoshima before plunging into the race, because the election results would largely depend on whether he would run.

On Feb. 1, Aoshima made the surprise announcement that he would not seek re-election, thereby throwing the race wide open. Kunio Hatoyama, deputy leader of the top opposition party, the Democratic Party of Japan, indicated his readiness to enter the race with the support of the Japanese Trade Union Confederation and citizens’ groups. Hatoyama had been supportive of Aoshima’s administration and was reluctant to enter the race if Aoshima was going to run. The governor’s announcement gave a strong impetus to Hatoyama’s candidacy in the DPJ and organized labor, which had been buzzing with speculation about the possible candidacies of several scholars and commentators. Then Yoichi Masuzoe, a scholar of international politics, announced his candidacy as an independent.

The ruling Liberal Democratic Party has been in disarray over the nomination of a candidate. LDP members of the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly earlier decided to field former Foreign Minister Koji Kakizawa, but the executive officials at the party’s national headquarters refused to accept the decision and decided to run former U.N. Undersecretary General Yasushi Akashi. Kakizawa defied their decision and expressed his determination to enter the race. Akashi, meanwhile, refused to accept anything less than an endorsement as the party’s single candidate.

LDP executive officials had estimated that Kakizawa would withdraw his candidacy if the LDP persisted in fielding Akashi. They had suggested that should Kakizawa remained adamant, he would risk expulsion from the party. However, Kakizawa rejected the notion of yielding to pressure and renewed his determination to run even after Akashi finally decided Thursday, with the full support of the LDP, that he would indeed run. These developments have inflicted major damage on LDP party unity. To cap all this confusion, there has also been speculation that Shintaro Ishihara, a former LDP member and state minister, is ready to enter the race.

Fueling the chaos is the fact that there are many floating voters among the 11 million Tokyoites, who strongly distrust both politics and political parties. The LDP members of the metropolitan assembly are divided, which is the root cause of the trouble over the party’s nomination of a gubernatorial candidate. Meanwhile, New Komeito is now the No. 2 party in the assembly, and the LDP would be in extreme difficulty without its support in metropolitan politics.

The same is true of national politics. The LDP lacks a majority in the Upper House, even counting the votes of its coalition partner, the Liberal Party, and must count on the support of New Komeito for smooth Diet proceedings. The LDP is looking for a tripartite alliance with the LP and New Komeito. The LDP’s desire to obtain New Komeito’s support holds the key to its nomination of a gubernatorial candidate.

The DPJ, a minority group in the metropolitan assembly, has failed to come up with decisive election strategies because it needs the support of organized labor and other groups. Hatoyama, DPJ deputy chief, is leaving the party to run as an independent.

There are only 50 days to go before the April 11 election. For a time, it looked as if many candidates would contest the ballot, but now only a few major candidates are likely to run, with the support of the LDP, the DPJ and the JCP. New Komeito’s moves and floating voters are expected to have a decisive influence on the election outcome.

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