Governor Koike’s Nomination of Yohei Otake Sparks Strong Opposition Within LDP for Tokyo 15th District By-Election | FRIDAY DIGITAL

Governor Koike’s Nomination of Yohei Otake Sparks Strong Opposition Within LDP for Tokyo 15th District By-Election

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Mr. Otake (Afro) campaigning during the 2022 House of Councillors election.

“I want to engage in politics facing the people as a son of an izakaya (Japanese pub).”

On April 3rd, former professional fighter and current House of Councillors member Genki Sudo (46) announced his intention to run as an independent candidate in the Tokyo 15th district by-election for the House of Representatives. In 2019, he ran for the House of Councillors on the proportional representation list for the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan and was elected for the first time. In 2020, he became independent, and with one year left in his term, he plans to run in the by-election, which will be announced on April 16th and held on April 28th. Sudo expressed his thoughts on running as follows:

“In Koto Ward, two consecutive Liberal Democratic Party delegates have been arrested, and unfortunately, it has become a symbolic place of vested interest politics. I want to put an end to this situation, change Koto Ward, and change Japan.”

The Tokyo 15th district by-election this time arose from the resignation of Mito Kakizawa, a former vice-minister of justice, due to a violation of the Public Offices Election Act regarding the Tokyo Koto Ward mayoral election last year. His predecessor, Tsukasa Akimoto, a former member of the House of Representatives, was also arrested for corruption related to integrated resort (IR) projects, bribery, and violations of the Organized Crime Punishment Law.

The Secretary-General of the Liberal Democratic Party, Toshimitsu Motegi, stated regarding the decision to abandon candidate nomination:

“Our party was in a situation where it was difficult to nominate a candidate.”

By not fielding its own candidate, the Liberal Democratic Party is expected to lead to a proliferation of candidates in the by-election, making it a fierce battle.

Amidst all this, author Otome Hiromasa (48) has been garnering attention. Yuriko Koike (71), the Governor of Tokyo, who serves as a special advisor for the regional party “Tomin First no Kai” (hereinafter referred to as “Tomin First”), is planning to run as the official candidate from the “First no Kai” party aimed at entering national politics, with a policy of endorsement from the Liberal Democratic Party.

“On March 28, Koike directly called the main stakeholders and said, ‘We’re going with Mr. Ota,’ and he was hastily brought in as the vice representative of Tomin First. The news caught everyone by surprise, and members of the Liberal Democratic and Komeito parties were furious as they hadn’t been informed. With tasks such as setting up offices and organizing election-related arrangements piling up, the Tomin First executive committee is in a state of chaos. There are still rumors circulating about Mr. Ota, fearing that ‘another scandal involving a woman might emerge’ since his candidacy announcement has yet to take place,” said a Tomin First executive.

Initially, Mr. Ota was under consideration as the endorsed candidate for the Liberal Democratic Party in the 2016 Upper House election. However, the plan fell apart when “Shukan Shincho” reported on his extramarital affairs with five women.

“With his outstanding name recognition and the situation almost settled for him to run either in the Tokyo district or on the national proportional representation list, the scandal erupted. This deeply angered Secretary-General Motegi, who was the head of the election campaign committee at the time. On March 29, discussions were held with Yuko Obuchi, the chair of the election campaign committee, and Hiroshi Moriyama, the chair of the general affairs committee, but Motegi’s anger had not subsided, and he was reluctant to endorse Mr. Ota,” said a national newspaper political reporter.

The Liberal Democratic Party refrained from fielding an endorsed candidate in the April by-elections for the three House of Representatives seats, including the Nagasaki 3rd district. They are also facing difficulties in the conservative stronghold of Shimane 1st district. If they were to lose in the Tokyo 15th district as well, it would create an image of the Kishida administration being unable to win elections, putting them in a difficult situation.

To avoid a crisis, it was decided to support Mr. Ota by riding on the coattails of Governor Koike. If Mr. Ota were to win, the Kishida administration could argue, “Although we abandoned our original candidate, the endorsed candidate won, so the Liberal Democratic Party did not lose.” However, such an attitude is not well received internally, and an Edo ward councilor belonging to the Liberal Democratic Party, who supports the election, lamented:

“On April 3, when the party headquarters conveyed the intention to endorse Mr. Ota through the Edogawa branch of the Liberal Democratic Party, there was an uproar: ‘Is the party headquarters ignoring the voices of the local community?’ To begin with, Mr. Yamazaki himself has a distant relationship with Governor Koike and does not hide his anti-Koike stance. Furthermore, some Liberal Democratic ward councilors are facing trials over violations of the Public Offices Election Act regarding last year’s April mayoral election. There’s also discord because some voices are saying, ‘There’s no way Mr. Ota can run for election,’ and ‘We want to support Mr. Akimoto.'”

Mr. Ota was forced to withdraw from the race due to an extramarital affair, and although he apologized, Komeito remains indifferent and will not instruct its supporters, opting for a free vote.

On the other hand, the Constitutional Democratic Party is endorsing former Edogawa ward councilor Namiki Sakai (37) and is finalizing adjustments with the Communist Party’s Azuma Kozutsumi (34).

“Before Mr. Ota declared his candidacy, when the Constitutional Democratic Party conducted its own opinion poll, Mr. Sakai’s points were favorable, as he had come in second place in the mayoral election. There were also voices supporting Mr. Sudo, but he kept waiting to see whether Governor Koike would run or not, without clearly stating his position, and time ran out,” said a Constitutional Democratic Party assembly member.

In addition, candidates from other parties, such as Yui Kanazawa (33) from Nippon Ishin no Kai, Rina Yoshikawa (36) from the Sanseito party, and Yo Iiyama (48) from the Japan Conservative Party, as well as former Liberal Democratic Party Lower House member Tsukasa Akimoto (52), have announced their candidacies. Except for Mr. Akimoto, all of them are newcomers, and the situation is becoming chaotic with multiple candidates.

With less than a week left until the announcement date, as candidates are being endorsed by various political parties, Mr. Sudo hammered home his determination, saying, “I was born and raised in Edogawa, and there’s no one else like me.” He expressed his determination as follows:

“It’s more interesting to have multiple candidates. In life, you need to have a ‘Battle of Okehazama’ somewhere to grow as a politician. I believe that by making decisions without considering gain or loss, I can succeed as a politician.”

Who will emerge victorious in the “Edogawa Battle Royale” in April: the author, the martial artist, the former local councilor, or perhaps a third party?

Genki Sudo, who announced his candidacy.
He showcased a fighting pose and exclaimed, “Break the corrupt money politics!” while poking fun at the backdoor funding allegations against the Liberal Democratic Party.
  • Interview and text by Daisuke Iwasaki

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