TOKYO • Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike, support for whom has surged with her efforts against the coronavirus, said yesterday she would run for a second term as governor of the Japanese capital, raising the prospect of sustaining an old rivalry with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
“The battle with the coronavirus is absolutely not over yet. Maybe, I think, this is a start,” Ms Koike told a news conference as she announced her bid for a second term in the July 5 election.
“I have been involved in the administration of Tokyo for four years,” she said. “Running for re-election, I have the same feeling. While remembering where I started and what I was trying to do, at the same time I have to show everyone my determination.”
She said her campaign would be largely digital to avoid gatherings.
Ms Koike, 67, was Japan’s first female defence minister and also held the environment portfolio.
Though she failed in a bid to become prime minister, analysts say the recent support for Ms Koike could rekindle her ambition to try again. Her approval ratings shot up to 70 per cent late last month, rising 20 percentage points from March, according to a JX Press Corp poll.
The poll found that 70 per cent of respondents supported her leadership in containing the coronavirus.
Through her daily video briefings, Ms Koike has taken a no-nonsense approach to getting Tokyo residents to stay at home and avoid an explosive spread of Covid-19.
Her soaring popularity stands in contrast to the largely negative public response to Mr Abe’s handling of the outbreak.
Approval for him dwindled to 38 per cent, with 60 per cent saying they disapproved of how he has handled the pandemic, according to a Jiji news agency poll last month.
Only 37 per cent thought he had done a good job.
A former newsreader, Ms Koike failed in a 2008 bid to lead the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), which Mr Abe now heads.
She left the party in 2016 and went on to become Tokyo’s first woman governor that year.
The LDP will not field a candidate for the Tokyo race because it could not find a good contender, broadcaster NHK reported yesterday.
Other contenders include Mr Kenji Utsunomiya, a left-leaning lawyer.