Fierce battle seen for Tokyo in Japan Upper House poll

A fierce battle is expected to unfold for the Tokyo area in this summer’s House of Councilors election, with major parties finishing the selection of their candidates.

Six of the 12 seats allotted to the Tokyo constituency will be contested in the upcoming poll. Each Upper House member serves a six-year term in the countries Parliament, with upper chamber elections taking place every three years. Half of all seats in the chamber are up for grabs during each election cycle.

The ruling Liberal Democratic Party, which has two of the six seats, is resolved not to lose them, while the main opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan (CDP) has decided to field two candidates.

Komeito, the LDP’s coalition partner, Nippon Ishin no Kai and the Japanese Communist Party (JCP) are all aiming to win seats. In addition, Tomin First no Kai (Tokyoites First), a regional party in Tokyo, has established a national political party, First no Kai, to join the election.

The LDP had been struggling to find a candidate who could succeed Upper House member Masaharu Nakagawa, a former environment minister, who is set to retire. Only recently, the party was able to pick Akiko Ikuina, who was a member of the now-defunct all-female pop group Onyanko Club, as one of its two candidates in Tokyo.

The other official LDP candidate is Kentaro Asahi, a former beach volleyball player, whose Upper House seat in Tokyo, won in the 2016 election, will be contested in this year’s election.

“I hope that the two will win seats by working hard and competing with each other,” Hiroshige Seko, the party’s secretary-general in the Upper House, told a news conference Friday.

Noting that Ikuina has stronger name recognition than Asahi, a senior official of the LDP’s Tokyo branch said that the party aims to increase support for Asahi from influential organizations close to the party.

The CDP faces a similar situation.

The opposition party has endorsed current Upper House member Renho, who has huge name recognition and collected the most votes among all candidates in the Tokyo constituency in the 2010 and 2016 Upper House elections, and Akihiro Matsuo, a former member of the House of Representatives, the Parliament’s lower chamber.

“It will be really difficult to secure two seats (in Tokyo), but we will do everything we can,” CDP leader Kenta Izumi said at a news conference Friday.

In view of the large gap in name recognition between Renho and Matsuo, the CDP’s Tokyo chapter decided that one of the party’s 25 Lower House electoral district branches in Tokyo will support Renho and the other 24 will back Matsuo.

But concerns remain, as the endorsement of Matsuo was delayed and it is unclear whether Toshio Ogawa, who is a member of the CDP but currently does not belong to any Upper House caucus because he serves as vice president of the chamber, will run in the upcoming election. The seat in Tokyo held by Ogawa will be up for the grabs in the poll.

The Japanese Trade Union Confederation, or Rengo, the umbrella organization for the country’s labor unions, is planning to make a decision by the end of April to back Matsuo and Chiharu Araki, head of First no Kai.

Rengo is a support base for the CDP and the opposition Democratic Party for the People (DPP) .

Some in Rengo, however, are worried because voter support for the the CDP is slumping and the DPP is approaching the ruling camp.

Komeito decided to field Toshiko Takeya, who aims to be elected for a third time, as its official candidate, while the JCP is set to redouble efforts to secure the re-election of Taku Yamazoe, who won an Upper House seat for the first time in the 2016 election.

Positioning Tokyo as its most important constituency in the Upper House election, Nippon Ishin, which is currently primarily based in Osaka Prefecture and is eager to transform itself into a party with a nationwide presence, hopes to win a seat in the Tokyo constituency. The party secured one seat in the capital in the previous 2019 Upper House election.

Tomin First, which garnered over 1 million votes in total in last year’s Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly election, hopes that the outcome will help it perform well in Tokyo in the Upper House election.

The party expects to receive support from Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike, who serves as special adviser for Tomin First. The DPP is slated to back Tomin First candidates in the Upper House poll under their election cooperation strategy.

Reiwa Shinsengumi is thinking of fielding a candidate in the Tokyo constituency after winning two proportional representation seats in the 2019 election.

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