LDP Wins 2 Races, Loses 6 in Tokyo Assembly By-Elections; Results Well Short of Party’s Goal

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
The Liberal Democratic Party’s headquarters building in Tokyo

The Liberal Democratic Party won two races and lost six in Sunday’s by-elections for the Tokyo metropolitan assembly, far worse than the party’s self-set conditions for victory of four or more wins.

The by-elections were held for nine seats in nine constituencies — the six wards of Koto, Shinagawa, Nakano, Kita, Itabashi and Adachi; the two cities of Hachioji and Fuchu; and Minami Tama, which combines Tama and Inagi cities. The LDP fielded candidates in eight of the nine.

The LDP lost in Koto, Shinagawa, Nakano, Kita and Adachi wards, as well as in Hachioji, the constituency of former Policy Research Council Chairperson Koichi Hagiuda, an Abe faction member who was punished by the party over the faction’s violations of the Political Funds Control Law. The LDP won in Itabashi Ward and Fuchu.


Harsh public response underscored

The Yomiuri Shimbun
People listen to a campaign speech for the Tokyo metropolitan assembly by-elections in Hachioji, Tokyo, on June 28.

There is a perception within the LDP that the party saved face by having incumbent Gov. Yuriko Koike, the candidate the party unofficially supported, win in Sunday’s Tokyo gubernatorial election. However, the ruling party’s crushing defeat in the Tokyo metropolitan assembly by-elections held the same day underscores the still harsh public response to the political funds scandal involving LDP factions.

LDP-backed incumbent Gov. Koichi Shiota on Sunday was also reelected in Kagoshima. LDP Election Strategy Committee Chairperson Yuko Obuchi said the victories of Koike and Shiota will be a great boost for the party in future elections nationwide, but she feels that regaining the public’s trust is still a work in progress.

“We will adopt a more serious posture and work on reforms,” Obuchi said in a statement.

Revelations that several LDP factions have been involved in the political funds scandal sparked growing public displeasure with the party. There was a sense its influence was on the wane as it effectively lost three by-elections for the House of Representatives in April before having candidates it supported lose in the Shizuoka gubernatorial and other local elections.

“There was finally some relief thanks to the victories in the Tokyo and Kagoshima gubernatorial elections,” a senior LDP member said.

However, the LDP was unable to field its own candidate in the Tokyo gubernatorial election and turned to Koike as a desperate measure.

Believing that the issue of “politics and money” would be a drag on Koike, the LDP engaged mainly in background work such as solidifying its organizational support of Koike during the campaign period.

There are concerns within the LDP that Koike’s victory was the result of the party’s efforts to avoid having her being tarred by the party’s brush, and that the party tough situation has not changed.

The Tokyo metropolitan assembly by-elections were expected to serve as a gauge of the LDP’s strength. Only one seat was up for grabs in each constituency, the same as for the single-seat constituencies that make up the lower house.

However, the LDP lost in six constituencies despite visits by LDP Secretary General Toshimitsu Motegi and Digital Transformation Minister Taro Kono to show support for candidates during the campaign period.

LDP coalition partner Komeito took a wait-and-see attitude during campaigns, adding to the difficulties for the LDP. Komeito did so in consideration of Tomin First no Kai (Tokyoites first group), a regional party for which Koike serves as a special advisor. Komeito has cordial ties with Koike, and Tomin First no Kai candidates competed in the by-elections against LDP candidates.

Komeito also apparently took into account constituencies where it will contest seats with the LDP in the Tokyo assembly election next summer.

“It is inevitable that the LDP will face an uphill battle in the next lower house election since the party has failed to achieve even the modest goal of winning at least four seats in the Tokyo by-elections,” a senior LDP lawmaker said.