Tokyo governor seeks reelection riding high on covid crisis management

By Antonio Hermosin Gandul

Tokyo, July 4 (efe-epa).- The Covid-19 pandemic and the postponement of the Tokyo Olympics to 2021 have put the incumbent governor’s leadership skills to test even as she is largely believed to cruise to victory in Sunday election amid a new rise in infections in the Japanese capital.

Yuriko Koike, who is seeking reelection for her second term, is an undisputed favorite for one of the top influential positions in Japan to rule the prefecture with nearly 14 million inhabitants.

The 67-year-old took office in 2016 as an independent candidate and is often considered to be a potential prime ministerial candidate in the coming years.

The governor, who is among a few women in Japanese politics, has been in a spotlight with her measures to contain the outbreak of novel coronavirus in Tokyo, which has reported a third of the 19,000 infections across Japan.

While Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has been the target of criticism amid declining popularity following his management of the coronavirus crisis, Koike has been decisive in implementing measures such as declaring health emergency, Keio University Professor, and political scientist Yuko Kasuya told EFE.

Apart from daily online press briefings during the most overwhelming phase of the pandemic, Koike popularized some of the messages such as “stay at home”, and “social distancing,” which stuck with the people of Japan.

Kasuya said Koike is good at managing media as she was a television presenter before entering into politics and knows that image is more important than substance.

The political scientist believes that Koike cannot boast of many achievements as Tokyo governor despite her popularity.

According to a survey by Japan’s Kyodo news agency, Koike has 60 to 70 percent voter support for Sunday’s elections, followed by Kenji Utsunomiya with 20 percent.

Following the overwhelming win of Koike in the previous regional elections, Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party has opted for no candidate in Sunday’s election despite having a large majority in the parliament.

Due to the pandemic, usual campaign activities such as rallies and tours of the candidates have been replaced by online debates and speeches to avoid crowding.

During her campaign, Koike has pushed for the plan to host the Tokyo Olympics in a simplified manner in 2021, on the recommended proposal of the International Olympic Committee and the central government after deciding to postpone the Games for a year.

Koike has also assured measures to ensure health safety in the capital for the future international sporting event, although she did not reveal any details of the plans on the matter.

Among her opponents, some have advocated a definitive cancellation of the games given the current situation of the pandemic, while others propose the event to be delayed until 2024 amid the fears that movement of athletes and public could bring more infection into Japan.

One of the supporters of the cancellation of the games is recently formed party Reiwa Shinsengumi’s Taro Yamamoto, who has warned that going ahead with the Tokyo Olympics could turn the capital into a “petri dish” due to the continuous global spread of the virus and the low probability of the availability of a vaccine by next summer. EFE-EPA


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