Renho Bid for Tokyo Governor Focuses on Criticism of LDP; Incumbent Yuriko Koike Cautious About Support From Ruling Party

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Renho announces her candidacy for Tokyo governor at the headquarters of the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan in Tokyo on Monday.

In the Tokyo gubernatorial election scheduled for July 7, House of Councillors member Renho from the main opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan will challenge incumbent Gov. Yuriko Koike, who intends to run for a third term.

Renho announced her candidacy on Monday. She will be supported by the CDPJ and the Japanese Communist Party, while the Liberal Democratic Party and its ruling coalition partner Komeito are considering backing Koike.

However, Koike’s team is cautious about accepting support from the LDP, which is being battered by scandals involving “politics and money.”

At a press conference at CDPJ headquarters on Monday afternoon, Renho criticized the LDP, saying that she would not tolerate problems of “politics and money.” She accused Koike, who has sometimes worked with the LDP in elections for the leadership of Tokyo municipalities, of acting “in tandem with the LDP.”

Renho said she would run under the banner of “anti-LDP politics and a non-Koike approach in the Tokyo government.”

She also said Koike’s project to provide a benefit of ¥5,000 per month for Tokyo residents age 18 and younger, which started last fiscal year, was “a pre-election campaign using public funds.”

Renho further suggested that the projection mapping on the exterior of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building, which started in February, be reduced in frequency and the money saved be used to support the homeless. “I want our policies to help those in need,” she said.

Renho was a newscaster before becoming a lawmaker and has experience as a cabinet minister. Her name has often been floated as a leading prospect for Tokyo gubernatorial elections, but both she and the CDPJ were cautious about challenging Koike, who has overwhelming vote-drawing power.

However, the CDPJ won all three House of Representatives by-elections in April, and a candidate recommended by the CDPJ defeated an LDP-backed candidate in the Shizuoka gubernatorial election on Sunday.

Furthermore, in the Sunday by-election for Tokyo assembly members in the Meguro Ward constituency, where two seats were up for grabs, Renho’s former secretary was elected with the most votes. The candidate backed by Koike was unsuccessful.

The CDPJ is upbeat about winning the Tokyo gubernatorial election and hopes to generate momentum toward a transfer of power in the central government.

However, Renho secured about 670,000 votes in her Tokyo constituency in the upper house election in 2022, down significantly from the about 1.71 million votes she received in 2010. Some observers believe she has a disadvantage in terms of name recognition compared with Koike.

The CDPJ intends to provide the same level of support for Renho as a candidate officially endorsed by the party.

Meanwhile, Koike is carefully considering when to announce her candidacy.

In an interview she gave Monday after visiting Hachijojima and Oshima islands for inspections, Koike evaded the issue. “Various people have urged me to continue to serve as Tokyo governor, but I haven’t made any plans yet,” she said.

On Tuesday, Koike was expected to receive requests to run for governor again from some municipality heads in Tokyo, as well as from the Komeito group in the Tokyo assembly. The LDP group in the assembly was also expected to meet with Koike and offer its support.

However, there is a growing sense of caution on the Koike side about receiving support from the LDP, whose approval ratings have been stagnant.

A senior member of Tomin First no Kai (Tokyoites first group), a regional political party that supports Koike, said: “People who dislike the LDP’s politics support us. Working with the LDP would do us more harm than good.”

One reason for the LDP’s offer of support is its desire to gain Koike’s cooperation in the Tokyo assembly by-elections on July 7, the same day as the gubernatorial election.

A senior member of the LDP’s Tokyo chapter said, “We need to hasten talks [with the Koike side] toward cooperation.”