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HOME  > Past issues  > 2020 June 17 - 23  > Tokyo gubernatorial race putting coronavirus at top of agenda officially starts
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2020 June 17 - 23 TOP3 [POLITICS]

Tokyo gubernatorial race putting coronavirus at top of agenda officially starts

June 19, 2020

Akahata editorial

The official campaign period for the July 5 Tokyo gubernatorial election started on June 18. Amid the ongoing coronavirus crisis, in order to have the Tokyo government play a role in protecting Tokyo citizens’ lives and livelihoods and improving their well-being, this election is very important. Incumbent Governor Koike Yuriko has never missed a chance to grandstand while devoting less attention to welfare services. Even in fight against COVID-19, she failed to respond to Tokyo citizens’ urgent demands. Her rival, Utsunomiya Kenji, former president of the Japan Federation of Bar Associations, launched his campaign with support from opposition parties, including the Japanese Communist Party, and a wide range of concerned citizens. In his kick-off speech, he called for putting an end to the Governor Koike-led Tokyo administration. As the people’s lawyer, he has been working for the socially vulnerable. Working together for his victory, let us open the path to a brighter future for the Japanese capital.

Anti-corona efforts become a major issue

A major focal point in the gubernatorial election campaign is the establishment of a Tokyo government which will make wholehearted efforts to properly address the coronavirus situation. In the fight against COVID-19, Governor Koike was always slow and caused confusion among citizens. Before the postponement of the 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games was decided, she remained silent about the health crisis, which led to the insufficient number of PCR tests and a delay in the implementation of necessary measures. Nevertheless, soon after the postponement was announced, she began making statements calling for “Lockdown”. This increased Tokyo residents’ anxiety.

Given that scientific evidence is essential in combatting infectious diseases, Governor Koike should be criticized for prioritizing her political interests in her remarks and behavior. Regarding the issue of the very little number of PCR tests carried out, Governor Koike claimed, “The required number of tests have been conducted.” The governor’s reluctance to drastically improve the PCR testing capacity will not protect the people from the ongoing pandemic in which a second wave of infections is forecasted.

Governor Koike provided too little compensation for loss of earnings caused by her stay-at-home and business suspension requests. Her plan to subsidize companies accepting the suspension request covered only one third of firms in Tokyo because industries eligible for this plan were limited. This shows that Governor Koike has no stance to provide compensation in implementing the policy to suspend economic and social activities. Koike, when lifting the business suspension request, said, “From now on, the need is for self-defense rather than self-restraint.” Her stance to impose individual responsibility on Tokyoites is unacceptable.

As a gubernatorial candidate, Utsunomiya proposes a drastic increase in PCR testing capacity and other infection prevention measures which are preemptive and aggressive. In particular, he stresses the need to improve and strengthen metropolitan hospitals which are now making strenuous efforts in the current crisis, including accepting COVID-19 patients. He also emphasizes the need to boost the functions of public health centers which play a front-line role in a fight against infectious diseases.

In March, when these public hospitals were working hard to treat the COVID-19 patients they accepted, Governor Koike decided on a policy to turn these hospitals into independent administrative corporations. She aims to change the public hospitals into something akin to private hospitals in order to further reduce the metropolitan government’s financial support to medical institutions. Her way of handling public hospitals which gives priority to economic efficiency goes counter to the improvement of the coronavirus countermeasures. Koike also justifies the reduction in the number of public health centers in Tokyo to 31 from 71 in 1994.

The continuation of the Governor Koike-led metropolitan government which treats metropolitan hospitals lightly should not be allowed. The plan to transform such hospitals into independent administrative corporations should be cancelled. Utsunomiya’s victory is important to change the Tokyo government into one that defends each Tokyoite’s right to live and protects employment and business operations in earnest.

Create a Tokyo government that brings hope

Governor Koike abandoned her election promises made in the previous election four years ago. Her stance disregarding people’s livelihoods and welfare is nothing but the Liberal Democratic Party-style metropolitan government stance. Now is the time to make a change. The JCP, together with a wide range of citizens, the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, the Social Democratic Party, the New Socialist Party of Japan, and the local political party Greens Japan, will make utmost efforts to help Utsunomiya win the election. Let us work to realize a metropolitan government that can bring hope to Tokyoites.

Past related article:
> Amid calls for increasing efforts to cope with surge in corona cases, Tokyo governor declares cuts in healthcare spending [April 2, 2020]
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