Tokyo Gubernatorial Election: Showdown in Capital Highlights Difficult Political Challenges

Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike has announced that she will run in the Tokyo gubernatorial election to seek a third term. Official campaigning is to start June 20, and voting and ballot counting will take place on July 7.

From the opposition camp, Renho, a member of the House of Councillors, as well as others, have declared their candidacies. With Koike’s announcement, major candidates are now all in the race.

The capital faces a mountain of issues. The population influx will continue for the time being, but the declining birth rate and aging population are expected to continue at the same time as well, raising concerns about rising medical costs and a shortage of nursing care personnel. There is also an urgent need to prepare for large-scale disasters and redevelop aging social infrastructure.

These issues can be said to be a microcosm of the difficult problems Japan faces. The Tokyo gubernatorial election is an opportunity for voters to make an important choice as to whom they will entrust to lead the capital, and this will have an impact on national politics as well. It is hoped that each candidate will clearly state their specific policies and engage in debate.

Nevertheless, it is utterly disappointing that the ruling party now in power is unable to field its own candidate in the gubernatorial election.

The ruling Liberal Democratic Party’s Tokyo chapter intends to support Koike. The chapter reportedly plans to give its support in a low-profile manner out of consideration for Koike, who wants to avoid being colored by a political party’s brush.

The LDP did not field official candidates for two House of Representative by-elections in April — Tokyo Constituency No. 15 and Nagasaki Constituency No. 3 — and was defeated by default in both constituencies. If the LDP continues such actions, the party will not be able to escape from the slump in its strength.

On the other hand, it is also questionable that the NHK Party, a political organization, is fielding a large number of candidates this time. According to party leader Takashi Tachibana, the organization plans to field 24 candidates.

While the participation in politics of a diverse group of people itself should not be denied, voters may be confused if the same party or political organization fields a large number of candidates in the same election to select a head of a local government. It is mocking those who are trying to cast a single vote by comparing the promises and political views of the candidates.

The NHK Party will also transfer the right to put up posters in its spaces on the more than 10,000 election billboards to be set up in Tokyo in return for ¥10,000 per spot. Tachibana promoted his idea that it would be “an opportunity to take over the billboards and expand your business.”

In principle, there are no restrictions regarding the content of the posters, as long as it does not violate certain rules such as presenting false information. Behavior that takes advantage of this and apparently uses elections, the foundation of democracy, as a means to make money should not be overlooked.

In the recent lower house by-election in Tokyo Constituency No. 15, a candidate of a political group, Tsubasa no To, and his camp were charged on suspicion of obstructing freedom of elections as they loudly disrupted speeches of other candidates, claiming that this was freedom of expression, and chased around their campaign vehicles.

The ruling and opposition parties should hasten to revise the Public Offices Election Law in light of a succession of these sorts of incidents that are not anticipated in the law.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, June 14, 2024)