Yuriko Koike, 67, was re-elected as governor of Tokyo in a landslide victory on July 5. Her high name recognition and advantage as the incumbent apparently led her to victory. But at the same time, the opposition parties failed to jointly back a candidate to stand against her, splitting anti-Koike votes and as a result paving the way for her crushing victory.
It was an election held amid an ongoing struggle to control new coronavirus infections. Gov. Koike did no roadside campaigning or speeches, and ran an online campaign. While Koike said she would strengthen testing systems as part of her administration's efforts against the coronavirus, her campaign never went outside of some videos designed to be shared, and there was a lack of substantive debate on the issues.
On the night of July 5, Koike said, "The Tokyo Metropolitan Government will protect people's lives and the economy. I want to promote Tokyo as a place that is competitive among the world's cities."
The top priority for Gov. Koike in her second term will be improving the capital's response to the new coronavirus. On June 11, the Tokyo Alert color-coded virus warning system was lifted, and since then, daily new infection numbers have risen dramatically. The spread of infections must be quashed, while promoting economic activities.
One of Gov. Koike's campaign pledges was the establishment of a Tokyo version of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, but she has yet to give concrete details on what this would look like. As she has proffered the idea, we would like to see her explain it as soon as possible. To curb infections, partnerships with neighboring municipalities and with the central government are indispensable.
Last week the Tokyo Metropolitan Government scrapped the Tokyo Alert system, and presented its new monitoring index for virus cases. This was a change from the previous system amid the number of new cases exceeding the set criteria for issuing the alert. Some have pointed out that Gov. Koike used the coronavirus measures to her own advantage in the election.
But why has the way of measuring the outbreak's severity been changed to non-numerical criteria? What does the Tokyo Metropolitan Government think about issuing a renewed request for people to stay at home, and for businesses to refrain from opening? These points should be explained.
Recovery of the metropolitan government's finances is also a pressing issue. Its public finance adjustment reserve funds, effectively its savings, have been reduced by more than 90% due to the fight against the new coronavirus. Its remaining balance has fallen to 80.7 billion yen (about $749.46 million). Tax revenues are expected to be lower due to the economic slowdown. And there are also issues around the additional financial burden resulting from the postponement of the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games.
In the gubernatorial election four years ago, Koike pledged to resolve seven policy issues under her "seven zeros" program. But the only one of them to be achieved was the "zero pet exterminations" target. Issues such as the delay in moving the Tsukiji market site to Toyosu show her public performances didn't always come with results.
The issues on the governor's slate are accumulating. Plans for a rapidly aging population and provisions against a potential earthquake directly under the capital are just a few of the matters at hand. It's not enough simply to raise these issues; the solutions should be implemented in a steady, step-by-step process.