Japan Gubernatorial Campaigns Kick Off

The Yomiuri Shimbun
People listen to a speech by a gubernatorial candidate in Chuo Ward, Sapporo, on Thursday.

The official campaign period for gubernatorial elections in nine prefectures began Thursday, in the first half of the unified local elections.

Voting in the gubernatorial races, as well as races for mayor in certain majors cities, is to take place on April 9.

While the gubernatorial race in Hokkaido is a showdown between ruling and opposition parties, the Nara and Tokushima gubernatorial elections are likely to see conservative votes split between candidates connected to the ruling Liberal Democratic Party.

The second half of the unified elections, including those to elect mayors of certain other cities and city assembly members, is set for April 23. Political parties and candidates will battle in the monthlong campaigns for the unified local elections over policies that touch people’s daily lives, such as measures against rising prices and support for child rearing.

The nine prefectures that will choose governors on April 9 are Hokkaido, Kanagawa, Fukui, Osaka, Nara, Tottori, Shimane, Tokushima and Oita. The number of gubernatorial elections this time is lower than in any past unified local elections. Mie and Fukuoka, which held gubernatorial polls in the previous unified local elections in 2019, will not hold elections this time.

A total of 32 people had filed their candidacies by 11:30 a.m. Thursday.

In Hokkaido, where the ruling and opposition parties are directly facing off, the incumbent candidate supported by the LDP and Komeito is vying with a rookie candidate backed by the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan.

Incumbent Gov. Naomichi Suzuki told a crowd in Sapporo on Thursday morning: “We cannot afford to allow a vacuum in the Hokkaido government. I want you to let me continue working as governor.”

Rookie candidate Maki Ikeda also said in Sapporo: “We must create politics in which the people of Hokkaido can participate. I will build warm politics from the perspective of the people.”

In Oita Prefecture, where a new governor will be elected for the first time in 20 years, a rookie candidate backed by the LDP will wage battle with an independent candidate who resigned from the House of Councillors after winning the 2019 upper house election with the support of opposition parties.

In Osaka Prefecture, where the official campaign period for the election for Osaka mayor will open Sunday, the incumbent governor, the official candidate of regional political party Osaka Ishin, will face a first-time candidate fielded by a political group seeking to draw together “non-Ishin” forces and a newcomer backed by the Japanese Communist Party. They are expected to debate a plan to develop an integrated resort featuring a casino, among other topics.

The Nara gubernatorial race is likely to see LDP-affiliated votes split between incumbent and first-time candidates, both backed by the LDP prefectural chapter. A candidate backed by Nippon Ishin (Japan Innovation Party) is also in the race.

In Tokushima Prefecture, the LDP-affiliated incumbent governor similarly faces challenges from two former LDP lawmakers who have entered the race.

In Kanagawa, Fukui, Tottori and Shimane prefectures, the gubernatorial elections became races in which both ruling and opposition parties support the incumbent.

In the first half of the unified local elections, the election of the mayors of six government ordinance-designated cities, including Sapporo and Osaka, will also be held, with official campaigning to start Sunday. Assembly elections are also planned in 41 prefectures and 17 government ordinance-designated cities, with official campaigning to begin on March 31. All these elections also are scheduled for April 9.

The second round of local polls, which will be held on April 23, includes mayoral and assembly elections for other cities, as well as ward mayor and assembly elections in Tokyo, with official campaigning to kick off on April 16. Town and village mayoral and assembly election will also be held, with campaigning to start on April 18.

A by-election is also expected to be held for an upper house seat in Oita Prefecture, with official campaigning set to begin April 6. House of Representatives by-elections also are scheduled to be held in four constituencies — Chiba No. 5, Wakayama No. 1 and Yamaguchi Nos. 2 and 4 — with official campaigning to kick off April 11.