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Gearing Up for the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly Elections

SNA (Tokyo) — The posters are beginning to appear on the city walls and the various parties are accelerating their preparations. The Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly elections are now only three months away, and analysts are wondering just how dominant Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike will become when the contest has concluded.

The Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) has traditionally been the top of the heap in the Assembly. They currently hold 57 seats in the 127-seat chamber. That is not a majority, but it is still roughly 30 seats more than any other single party.

Today the LDP set up its election headquarters. Party chapter head Hakubun Shimomura observed, “I think this is going to be a very tough election for us. Other than the LDP, everyone else is lining up as Koike allies. In that sense, this has become a clear confrontation.”

Indeed, the Komeito party, which is the LDP’s indispensable ally at the national political level, has completely jumped ship in local Tokyo politics. They currently hold 22 seats in the Assembly, which they have put at the disposal of the popular governor. Even their campaign posters have ditched the image of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and replaced it with Governor Koike.

Koike herself has just added insult to injury by selecting Keisho Taira, a former political secretary to Shimomura, as one of her Tokyoites First candidates for the Assembly. Koike appears determined to make the LDP Tokyo Chapter pay a heavy price for their foolish decision not to back her gubernatorial candidacy last year, in spite of her ministerial-level experience in both Koizumi and Abe cabinets.

But if the upcoming Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly elections appear “tough” for the LDP, they may prove cataclysmic for the leading opposition Democratic Party (DP). Though they have been holding the third-largest party grouping at the local level, and their leader Renho has expressed admiration for Governor Koike, there is a real prospect that the DP will entirely disappear from the Assembly, with every single one of their candidates either defecting to the governor’s banner or else going down to electoral defeat within their districts.

Today, in fact, the Democratic Party lost its seventh candidate (and second incumbent Assemblyman), Ryoichi Ishikawa of Minami-Tama, who announced his party resignation. He explained to the local media, “I’m extremely sympathetic to Governor Koike’s efforts to reform the metropolitan government. I would like to tie up with her movement if I can.”