Tokyo votes to elect new governor with incumbent Koike as favorite

Tokyo, July 5 (efe-epa).- Tokyo residents went to the polls on Sunday to elect their new governor, with incumbent Yuriko Koike predicted to win her second term amid a new rise in coronavirus infections in the Japanese capital that is set to hold Olympics next year.

Some 11.5 million voters will be polling at nearly 1,800 booths across the prefecture with nearly 14 million inhabitants.

The voting began at 7 am local time (2200 GMT on Saturday) and will close at 8 pm (1100 GMT Sunday). The outcome is expected soon after.

A record 22 candidates are in the fray, but only a few are seen as challengers to Koike, who has emerged as an undisputed favorite for a second four-year term for the top influential position in Japan.

Koike, 67, a former minister of defense and environment, is contesting as an independent candidate with the support of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, which decided not to field its candidate.

Others in the fray include former president of the Japan Federation of Bar Associations Kenji Utsunomiya, 73, former actor Taro Yamamoto, 45, and Taisuke Ono, 46, a former deputy governor of Kumamoto prefecture.

The campaign, which lasted for about 17 days and was restricted by the coronavirus pandemic, has focused precisely on measures to tackle Covid-19 and the Olympic Games scheduled for July 2021.

Koike took office in 2016 and is often seen as a potential prime minister.

The Tokyo metropolitan on Saturday reported 131 new coronavirus cases in the capital which is the highest since the state of emergency was lifted on May 25. It also marked the third straight day with over 100 cases and brings Tokyo’s total to 6,654.

The governor, who is among a few women in Japanese politics, has been under the spotlight with her aggressive measures to contain the outbreak of the 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 his declining popularity following his management of the coronavirus crisis, Koike has been decisive in implementing measures such as declaring health emergency, Yuko Kasuya, a Keio University professor and political scientist, told EFE.

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

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 international sporting event, although she did not reveal any details of the plans on the matter. EFE-EPA


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