Ruling and Opposition Parties Keep Eyes on Shinji Ishimaru; Some Fear He Could Draw Away Support of Unaffiliated Voters

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
Shinji Ishimaru pose with his supporters in Shinjuku Ward, Tokyo, on Sunday.

As Shinji Ishimaru, a former mayor of Akitakata, Hiroshima Prefecture, broke into second place in the Tokyo’s gubernatorial election on Sunday, the ruling and opposition parties are keeping their eyes on the possibility that he could make a move into national politics. If that is his intention, he could become an outlet for criticism of the existing parties and snatch votes from unaffiliated people.

Katsuei Hirasawa, a Liberal Democratic Party representative from Tokyo Constituency No. 17 who previously served as minister for reconstruction, referred to Ishimaru as a “winner” of the election for the way he made inroads with the overwhelming number of independent voters in the city. Hirasawa added, “The LDP has not been able to catch up with voters who demand fresh air.”

As one of his options, Ishimaru is considering running for the House of Representatives in Hiroshima Constituency No. 1, which is Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s stronghold. Since it is difficult to predict what Ishimaru plans to do next, LDP’s executives have warned, “We cannot turn a blind eye to him.”

Japan Innovation Party did not support any candidates in the gubernational election, instead taking a wait-and-see strategy. However, a member of Tokyo’s Setagaya ward assembly resigned from the party to support Ishimaru. The party has expanded its power as a kind of “third pole” by absorbing voters’ dissatisfaction with existing parties. The executive of the party, stressing the sense of danger, said, “If Ishimaru establishes a new party, it might deprive our party of supporters and lawmakers.”

Despite having the full support of the main opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, Renho settled for third place. Hiroshi Ogushi, chairperson of the CDPJ’s Election Strategy Committee said in an interview on Monday, “We will think about a strategy to win over unaffiliated persons again.”