Tokyo poll result cements Yuriko Koike’s status as political survivor

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In the nearly three decades since Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike entered politics by winning an election as a candidate for a small opposition party now defunct, she has held a prominent place on the table. nationwide, especially given speculation that she may one day become Japan’s first female prime minister. – something that has only intensified after a strong performance in the recent elections in Tokyo.

At the same time, his career is littered with political parties joined and then abandoned, earning him the nickname among critics of “Nagatacho’s wandering bird”, a reference to the political heart of Japan in Tokyo. Yet she remains a political survivor. Critics, while acknowledging her charisma, say she has more style than substance and is better in politics than in governance.

After Koike’s Tomin First no Kai (Tokyoites First) performed better than expected in the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly election on July 4, speculation grew that she could return to national politics again in returning to the Liberal Democratic Party, which she left in 2016, or forming a new national party.

Powerful PLD secretary general Toshihiro Nikai, who remains close to Koike, said he would welcome his return to the party, while former defense minister General Nakatani pitched the idea of a new conservative party under Koike which could ally with the PLD. . Other media commentators have suggested she could turn Tomin First into a national party in time for this fall’s general election, and then work with the ruling coalition.

National opposition parties are also paying attention to Koike, 69’s upcoming move.

On July 8, former Prime Minister Naoto Kan tweeted that the upcoming general election was Koike’s last chance to become prime minister. He suggested that Nikai could nominate Koike as a candidate for prime minister if the LDP does not win big in the general election led by Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga.

Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike campaigns with candidates Tomin First no Kai in Chofu, Tokyo on July 3. | KYODO

Koike herself has not commented on the speculation and has publicly denied her interest in returning to the national political scene. But as the former Minister of the Environment and Minister of Defense, who became the first woman in the PLD to run for the presidency of the PLD in 2008, she has long considered becoming the first female prime minister of Japan.

Over the course of his career, Koike has drawn a wide range of criticism. More recently, his coronavirus response measures as governor of Tokyo have failed to stop the spread of infections, and at the same time, they have angered local businesses that have been forced to cut hours or shut down.

In late June, just before the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly elections, it emerged that Tomin First would suffer heavy losses. But in a surprised gesture, she suddenly entered the hospital, citing overwork and exhaustion. Despite this, Koike resurfaced just before the election, appearing at party campaign rallies.

The move raised questions about his timing and the severity of his illness, but voters seemed to sympathize. Tomin First candidates received a last-minute boost, while the LDP and Komeito failed to secure a majority. A Kyodo exit poll showed that 67% of those polled supported Koike.

Keiko Ishikawa, public relations and risk management consultant, suggests that this was all part of Koike’s political strategy.

“I don’t think Koike is the type of person who breaks down when it is important to stay in the game (during an election campaign),” Ishikawa said. “She seems to have adopted this approach because it’s better, in terms of public visibility.

“You can’t really attack someone who’s overworked and falling apart. In that sense, I think she has the ability to capture people’s hearts.

Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike Holds Sign To Read
Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike holds a sign reading ‘Intensive short-term infection control measures’, a slogan relating to the city’s response to the coronavirus outbreak, at a press conference in Tokyo on November 25. | REUTERS

Manabu Matsuda, former Diet member and representative of the Matsuda Research Institute’s political think tank, notes that Koike, a former TV presenter, has a good command of the medium, projecting an image of glamor and showing the ability to come up with phrases – sometimes in a mixture of Japanese and English – which makes for good TV sound sequences.

“The governor creates an atmosphere and is very good at using catchy slogans as a way to intelligently use words to show that she is doing something new,” he said.

Koike’s use of television – along with his use of slogans and spiked phrases in English – is particularly important to his political strategy as so many older people get their news primarily, if not entirely, from television.

“There is also a feeling of intimacy due to the effects of repeated (TV) coverage – Koike knows that. So you can tell that she likes to use short words that stand out and are shown on TV, ”Ishikawa said.

Koike’s political goals as a politician are the subject of much debate. As a member of the LDP, she supported the party’s defense and diplomatic goals. But unlike Osaka politics, where Governor Hirofumi Yoshimura and Mayor Ichiro Matsui created a new political party – Osaka Ishin no Kai and Nippon Ishin no Kai – with the aim of merging the neighborhoods of Osaka city, Koike and Tomin First appear to have no such local goal for Tokyo.

Ishikawa and Matsuda say Koike does not have real core political beliefs.

“Gov. Koike is mostly interested in herself, ”Ishikawa said. “It’s about being in the spotlight, not being politically right or left.”

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