Tokyo governor Koike wins third term

2024-07-09 13:20:13China Daily Editor : Zhao Li ECNS App Download

The reelection of Yuriko Koike for a third term as Tokyo governor on Sunday temporarily eased the growing criticism against Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida's Cabinet and his ruling Liberal Democratic Party, or LDP, but it has not reversed the trend, experts said.

The LDP is seen as supporting Koike, the first woman to lead the Tokyo Metropolitan Government, even though she is not a member of the party.

A record number of 56 candidates ran for the 2024 Tokyo gubernatorial election. Koike, 71, received 42.77 percent of the vote.

Shinji Ishimaru, 41, former mayor of Akitakata in Hiroshima Prefecture, came second with 24.3 percent of the vote. Renho, 56, an opposition-backed former member of the House of Councillors, came in third with 18.81 percent of the vote.

Local elections are closely related to national politics. The outcome of the Tokyo gubernatorial election, the largest local election, garnered significant attention due to several defeats for the LDP in major elections this year.

The LDP's losing streak reflected a backlash caused by a slush-fund scandal involving factions at the ruling party, said Ukeru Magosaki, a former senior official with Japan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

"If Governor Koike were to be defeated, the Kishida administration would become unstable, and there would be a possibility of the LDP losing in the next House of Representatives election," said Magosaki.

"However, with Koike's victory this time, this trend has temporarily come to a halt," added Magosaki, who is also co-representative of the Association for Inheriting and Propagating the Murayama Statement, a civic group dedicated to upholding the 1995 Murayama Statement admitting Japan's wartime mistakes.

"Nevertheless, it is merely a pause in the momentum pushing the LDP and the Kishida administration into a corner, and it has not reversed the trend. The main issue is whether Kishida can deflect criticism within the LDP and secure reelection as the party's president. The current situation remains uncertain," he said.

Impact of scandal

To minimize the negative impact of the slush fund scandal on Koike, the LDP did not openly endorse her, blurring the ties between Koike and the LDP so it was not a focal point of the election, Magosaki said.

The results of the election showed that many voters preferred to passively maintain the status quo, said Kazuyuki Hamada, international political economist and former member of the House of Councillors.

"Koike, who safely managed two terms over eight years, was judged to pose less risk than the numerous new candidates," said Hamada.

While Koike achieved a landslide victory, the key to her success lay in the fact that her opponents failed to appeal to voters with specific policies that met their expectations, Hamada added.

Renho emphasized issues of "politics and money" but many Tokyo residents were more swayed by Koike's policies, he said.

He noted that the results of the gubernatorial election are expected to significantly influence the LDP presidential election and the next general election.

In the July 7 by-elections for the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly — the prefectural parliament of Tokyo Metropolis — the LDP fielded candidates in eight of the nine constituencies contested, suffering a dismal outcome of two wins and six losses.

Runner-up Ishimaru, who attracted attention in the Tokyo gubernatorial election through his youthful image and social media campaign, has declared his intention to enter national politics.

Ishimaru may run in the same electoral district in Hiroshima as Kishida, which presents a potentially difficult challenge for the prime minister, said Hamada.

"It is clear that there is growing disappointment and distrust among voters toward established parties like the LDP," he said.

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