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News Navigator: Will a 2020 gubernatorial election coincide with the Tokyo Olympics?

A Tokyo gubernatorial election is expected to be called in late July or early August to pick a successor to Gov. Yoichi Masuzoe, who has stepped down over a political funding scandal. The Mainichi answers some common questions readers may have about whether a 2020 Tokyo gubernatorial election, which will be held after the next governor's first four-year term expires, will coincide with the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics.

    Question: I've heard that the term of a Tokyo governor is four years. Will a 2020 gubernatorial election be held during the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics?

    Answer: There is a possibility that the 2020 election will coincide with the Olympics. The next election is expected to be held on either July 31 or Aug. 7 this year. In that case, the next governor's term expires on either July 30 or Aug. 6, 2020. Under this scenario, the governor's term will expire during the Olympics scheduled to be held from July 24 to Aug. 9, 2020. The Public Offices Election Act stipulates that a gubernatorial election must be held during a 30-day period before a governor's term expires. Therefore, a gubernatorial election four years later will be held either during the Olympics or shortly before the Games. The poll will not coincide with the Paralympics, which are scheduled to be held from Aug. 25 to Sept. 6.

    Q: It's worrisome that the election could affect the Olympics. Can the schedule for the election be changed?

    A: The Local Autonomy Act stipulates that the term of a governor and local assembly members is four years, but there were cases where the terms of local assembly members and local government heads were extended. Following the 1995 Great Hanshin Earthquake and the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake, affected local bodies told the national government that it was difficult to hold local elections. In response, a special measures law was enacted to allow affected local governments to extend the terms of mayors, governors and local assembly members by two to six months.

    Q: So the Tokyo governor's term can be extended as well, can't it?

    A: Not necessarily. There is no example of allowing the terms of local assembly members or local government heads to be extended for reasons other than earthquakes. However, if the governor resigns earlier than their term expires, an election can be called earlier. The executive and legislative branches of the central government as well as the Tokyo Metropolitan Government will likely consider cautiously how to prevent the 2020 Tokyo gubernatorial election from adversely affecting the Olympics. (Answers by Hiroyuki Tanaka, Political News Department)

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