15 vie for Tokyo governor as campaigning begins

By Kyoko Hasegawa

The race to become the next governor of Tokyo kicked off Thursday in an election widely seen as a referendum on Japan's energy policy, almost three years after the nuclear disaster at Fukushima.

At least 15 people filed their candidacy for the election, to be voted for by 10.82 million people, Tokyo's election board said Thursday afternoon.

Observers say the election on Feb 9 will be a two-horse race between the anti-nuclear former Prime Minister Morihiro Hosokawa and Yoichi Masuzoe, an academic and former health minister, who served as a member of a Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) government.

"We have to stop (the policy of) restarting nuclear plants as soon as possible and adapt to a new era," Hosokawa said on the campaign trail Thursday.

Japanese voters have become wary of nuclear power since the tsunami-sparked disaster at Fukushima began in March 2011, but the issue failed to materialise in the national polls that swept Shinzo Abe to power, with his opponents' apparent haplessness neutralising their anti-nuclear stance.

The governor of Tokyo has no actual power to change national energy policy, but the sheer size of the city, with 13 million inhabitants and a pivotal place in the economic, political and cultural life of Japan, means its verdict will be tough to ignore.

Hosokawa, whose 1993-4 premiership is little more than a footnote to modern political history, has the backing of popular one-time Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi.

The abundantly-coiffured Koizumi has shunned the limelight since his five-year premiership ended in 2006, but he emerged as an anti-nuclear convert midway through 2013 and began agitating for the permanent shuttering of Japan's nuclear reactors.

That put him at odds with current Prime Minister Abe, his one-time protege who has vowed to get the plants back on line when they have passed new, more stringent safety tests.

Popular memories of the 2001-2006 Koizumi premiership remain overwhelmingly positive, and his backing is expected to give Hosokawa a significant boost, say analysts.

"At this point Mr Masuzoe seems to be the strongest candidate as Mr Hosokawa has been largely mum about the details of his policy stances," said Sadafumi Kawato, professor of politics at Tokyo University.

However, "Mr Koizumi is still popular and honestly I can't predict the vote result," he added.

"But if Mr Hosokawa wins the election, it could be an obstacle to Prime Minister Abe's energy policy," he said, noting that Tokyo is a major shareholder of Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO), the operator of the Fukushima plant.

But in a note to clients, research consultancy Capital Economics said Abe, whose drive to reinvigorate Japan's sluggish economy is widely believed to be bearing fruit, may be able to ride out a negative result in the Tokyo poll.

"The influence of local politicians on energy policy is limited. The national government should therefore still be able to resume nuclear generation in coming months whichever way the Tokyo vote goes," it said.

Masuzoe, who gained fame as a political scientist and TV pundit, said his priority was to make the 2020 Tokyo Olympics a success.

"I want to have the best Olympics and Paralympics ever in history," he said, adding public safety, disaster prevention and social welfare services are also among his priorities.

On energy policy, he said "it is better to reduce the ratio" of nuclear power in energy consumption, adding "in (the) short term, securing the safety of nuclear plants is important".

Other candidates include Kenji Utsunomiya, 67, an anti-nuclear liberal lawyer backed by the Communist Party, and Toshio Tamogami, 65, a former air defense force chief with outspoken nationalist views.

© (c) 2014 AFP

©2021 GPlusMedia Inc.

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Please let it not be Tamogami!

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Bring on the sound trucks at all times of the day. Poor Tokyo residents

-2 ( +2 / -4 )

Oh, yeah! Tamogami for governor: "Got Xen?" (tee-hee!)

1 ( +1 / -0 )

"Please let it not be Tamogami"

Don`t worry , no danger of that happening , he is too far right for the electorate.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

bit like Nigeria, all desperate to get into government, higher the position the more money that can be embezzled, before your caught or voted out.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Jiminto is working hard to be a winner in this election. By backing Masuzoe, the Liberal Democrats put themselves in position to take the crown jewel in the Japanese political world. A victory in Tokyo would give them complete control of Japan (taking into consideration that Osaka governor Hashimoto continues moving closer to Abe's way of thinking). Then they can do anything they want. And this would be dangerous because it would give them full control of all that money that will be moving around as Tokyo builds for the 2020 Olympics. Jiminto is famous for being corrupt ... and can you imagine how much drooling they would be doing as a tremendous amount of money is passed around among the construction companies and other firms doing business for the Olympics.

Jiminto also needs a win in Tokyo to get the nuclear power generators running again ... and in a hurry. However, even if Jiminto loses the Tokyo election, they will see to it that nuclear power returns to the forefront again ... much like what happened in Okinawa when Nagoites voted against moving the Futenma Marine Corps base to their area (Jiminto said it will go ahead with the move anyhow ... to heck with what the voters say).

Should be an interesting battle between Masuzoe and Hosokawa. The other 13 candidates will be merely a sideshow ...

3 ( +4 / -1 )

15 people = 15 soundtrucks and noise pollutants. Yikes

1 ( +3 / -2 )

Masuazoe, Hosokawa and Tamogami don't stand a chance against Doctor Nakamats.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Observers say the election on Feb 9 will be a two-horse race between the anti-nuclear former Prime Minister Morihiro Hosokawa and Yoichi Masuzoe

Yukan Fuji predicts Shintaro Ishihara's favorite, General Tamogami, in a landslide.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

"Yukan Fuji predicts Shintaro Ishihara's favorite, General Tamogami, in a landslide"

No doubt, lol. This Tamogami guy was removed from his Air Self Defense Force chief post after he wrote an essay saying, incredibly, that Japan was not an aggressor during the Second World War.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

World Trade Fiasco, I could not agree with you any more. Something that is already happening in America. The two parties play a drama pretending that they are against each other when in fact they are working things behind the scenes.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

@edojin: Hashimoto is just Osaka Mayor. Nothing to do with LDP plan of Tokyo Governor election.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Hashimoto's win, if it happens, would be bad for Abe, but in the long run would benefit the LPD.

-4 ( +0 / -4 )

Hashimoto is not running for Tokyo governor.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

My guess is that one of three will have top three vote collectors. Hosokawa, Masuzoe, and Utsunomiya. So far that guy whom Ishihara backs will be near bottom, if not very bottom, I'd bet.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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