With Koike back, parties watch her moves

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike

As soon as Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike, who had been resting due to excessive fatigue, returned from a hospital in Tokyo on Wednesday, she sent a handwritten message to the candidates for Sunday’s Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly election of the Tomin First no Kai, a regional political party for which she serves as a special advisor. All political parties are keeping a close eye on her movements for the upcoming vote on July 4.

A Tomin incumbent candidate received Koike’s message, which said, “I have great expectations for you, seeing how you are all putting in your best effort into your daily activities.” The candidate welcomed it, saying, “If the governor gives us such clear support, it encourages us.”

After the announcement of her hospitalization on June 22, the metropolitan government received a series of phone calls expressing concern for Koike. Some people in other political parties remarked, “Even if the governor did not go out to support the Tomin candidates, sympathy votes were flowing to the party.”

According to a June 25-27 Yomiuri Shimbun poll of Tokyo voters, 17% of voters chose Tomin First as the party they would vote for in Sunday’s election, up six percentage points from the previous poll conducted from May 28 to 30.

Koike has not clearly stated her stance on the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly elections. A Tomin official explained her message by saying, “It means that she will give us her support as much as she can despite her poor health.”

Koike also commented when she was discharged from the hospital on Wednesday.

She apologized for her absence amid the latest resurgence of the novel coronavirus, and mentioned the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly election, saying, “I send encouragement to those who continue reform and preserve tradition.”

“Reform” can be interpreted as a reference to the Tomin party and “tradition” can be interpreted as a reference to parties such as the Liberal Democratic Party. An incumbent LDP candidate speculated that “she is probably being considerate of the LDP, Komeito and other parties with an eye to the post-election period.”

Bracing for the final stretch of the election campaign, the candidate added: “Depending on Koike’s moves, the situation could change drastically. We can’t let our guard down.”

According to the Tokyo metropolitan government and others, Koike had initially planned to return to official duties around June 28, but a slight fever persisted, delaying her checkout from the hospital. Her fever has now gone down, but on her doctor’s advice, she will attend to her official duties from home for the time being, and is considering participating in meetings remotely.