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Work cut out for Tokyo’s first woman governor

Work cut out for Tokyo’s first woman governor

FORMER defence minister Yuriko Koike has been elected for the first time in the Tokyo gubernatorial election.

Koike’s victory has made her the first woman to assume the Tokyo governorship.

A pressing task for her is to restore stability in the metropolitan government, given that two successive Tokyo governors stepped down in the middle of their terms of office due to politics and financial scandals.

After failing to receive the endorsement of the Liberal Democratic Party, to which she belongs, Koike used the situation to her advantage and staged “a battle fought by an individual” in rivalry with organisations.

This and the support she received from voters who had no party affiliation earned her a landslide victory.

The LDP’s Tokyo chapter notified the Diet and local assembly members affiliated with the chapter that they would be subject to penalties if they or their relatives supported Koike.

There is no denying that the instruction came off as high-handed and narrow-minded, which ultimately benefited Koike.

Koike continued to criticise the closed-door nature of the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly and the party’s Tokyo chapter.

She called for “realising an open metropolitan government”, saying that decision-making power is concentrated in the hands of some influential LDP assembly members.

The metropolitan assembly must seriously take this to heart.

Endorsed by such parties as the LDP and Komeito, former internal affairs and communications minister Hiroya Masuda emphasised his wealth of administrative experience as Iwate governor and in other posts.

Although his election pledges appeared to be more specific than those of other major candidates, Masuda lost the votes of LDP and Komeito supporters to Koike, largely due to his lack of name recognition.

Such catchphrases as “reform” and “eco-friendly” took precedence in a considerable number of the speeches Koike gave.

Above all, she will be required to implement practical policies.

As circumstances stand, it is inevitable that the metropolitan government will shoulder an additional financial burden in hosting the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics.

The question is how to reach an agreement with the national government and the event’s organising committee regarding the matter, while also gaining the understanding of Tokyo residents.

Thorough measures must also be taken to create and improve means of transportation to venues for competitions, and ensure buildings and other facilities are barrier-free.

Another important task is to address Tokyo’s declining birthrate and aging population, as its total fertility rate is among the lowest nationwide.

Koike has said she will work to overcome the shortage of childcare and nursing-care facilities by using vacant houses and other unused spaces.

No delay can be permitted in devising measures to cope with a future earthquake whose focus is directly below the surface of Tokyo.

Among other things, enormous damage can be expected in zones crowded with wooden houses, mainly low-lying areas.

It is indispensable to make progress in ensuring that houses and other buildings there are quake-resistant and fire-resistant.

It is also necessary to address the issue of people who would have difficulty returning home in the event of a major earthquake.

Needless to say, Koike should address politics and financial issues squarely in order to fulfill her heavy responsibilities.

—The Japan News

Published in Dawn, August 3rd, 2016

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