Governor of Tokyo and rival to Abe will seek new term

Governor of Tokyo and rival to Abe will seek new term

FILE PHOTO: Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Japan
Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike speaks at a news conference on Tokyo's response to the coronavirus outbreak, in Tokyo, Japan, Apr 10, 2020. (File photo: REUTERS/Issei Kato)

TOKYO: Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike, whose support has surged with her efforts against COVID-19, said on Friday (Jun 12) she would run for a second term as governor of the Japanese capital, raising the prospect of sustaining old rivalry with the prime minister.

Koike, 67, was Japan's first female defence minister and also held the environment portfolio. Though she failed in a bid to become prime minister, analysts say her recent popularity support could rekindle her ambition to try again.

Koike's approval ratings shot up to 70 per cent in late May, climbing 20 per cent from March, according to a poll by JX Press Corp. The poll found that 70 per cent of respondents supported her leadership in containing the novel coronavirus.

Through her daily video briefings, Koike has taken a no-nonsense approach to getting Tokyo residents to stay at home and avoid an explosive spread of the virus.

Her soaring support is in contrast with the largely negative public response to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's handling of the outbreak.

Abe's approval dwindled to 38 per cent, with 60 per cent saying they disapproved of how he has handled the epidemic, according to a Jiji news agency poll in May. Only 37 per cent thought he had done a good job.

"The battle with coronavirus is absolutely not over yet. Maybe, I think this is a start," Koike told a news conference as she announced her bid for a second term in the Jul 5 election.

She said her campaign would be largely digital to avoid gatherings.

A former newsreader, Koike failed in a 2008 bid to lead the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), which Abe now heads. She left the party in 2016 and went on to become Tokyo's first woman governor that year.

The LDP will not field a candidate for the Tokyo race because it could not find a good contender, the NHK broadcaster reported on Friday.

Other contenders include Kenji Utsunomiya, a left-leaning lawyer.

Source: Reuters/dv