On 15 June, the Kanagawa chapter of the Constitutional Democratic Party announced its support for Professor Takeharu Yamanaka of the Yokohama City University Academy of Medicine as an independent candidate in the Yokohama mayoral election.
The election will be held on 8 August and ballot counting held on 22 August, at which time current mayor Fumiko Hayashi’s term will come to an end.
To date the Constitutional Democratic Party has aimed to support candidates opposed to Yokohama’s IR bid. If an agreement is reached within and outside of the party, Yamanaka will be a unified candidate for the opposition.
Candidates so far running as independents include current city council member Masaki Ota, 75, and 48-year old Akiko Fujimura, the representative director of an animal protection group, who both oppose casinos, as well as former member of the House of Representatives and current deputy minister of Kanagawa prefecture, Mineyuki Fukuda, 57, who is running on a neutral platform in regards to an IR bid.
Mayor Hayashi – who has been an active promoter of an IR – is said to be motivated to run for a fourth term. However, the Liberal Democratic Party, which recommended Hayashi in the 2013 and 2017 elections, has stipulated in its internal rules that official approval and recommendations can only be issued for “three consecutive terms” and with Hayashi now 75 it is rumored that the party will not support her candidacy due to health concerns, such as her hospitalization with shingles in January.
The advantages and disadvantages of the city’s IR bid have overshadowed the Yokohama mayoral elections, but a city the scale of Yokohama is complex. Mayor Hayashi mentioned this in a regular press conference in March, commenting, “Large municipalities such as Yokohama do not speak only on one issue.”
Candidates running for election have many uncertainties around policies other than those related to IRs.
On the other hand, the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, a supporter of IR projects, has not announced a unified candidate. Some names have been mentioned but those rumors have since gone cold. There is a strong impression that the strategy is to wait until other parties have announced their candidates.
Either way, if the ruling and opposition parties do not settle on unified candidates, votes may be split. The biggest risk for a vote split would be if Hayashi ran for re-election and the Liberal Democratic Party fielded their own unified candidate. The LDP may have a difficult choice ahead of them.
Yokohama city is facing a range of issues such as population decline and financial difficulties, and is therefore promoting IR as a solution to these looming problems. To that end, much attention will be focused on the next person responsible for the city’s municipal administration.