Incumbent mayor Fumiko Hayashi has decided at 75 years of age to run for a fourth term as mayor of the city of Yokohama and is starting to prepare for the August election, according to local media outlets.
The long-awaited news of Hayashi’s intentions is a major boost for supporters of Yokohama’s IR bid, with the majority of known candidates for the upcoming election having stated a clear anti-IR stance.
As the incumbent, Hayashi had remained quiet about her intentions until now, but has finally announced she’s aiming for her fourth term.
The most crucial point of debate in Yokohama seems to revolve around IRs and although Hayashi has been the leading champion of the city’s bid, she can’t expect to win this election easily.
City councilman Masataka Ota and animal protection group president Akiko Fujimura are running on anti-casino platforms, but neither are promoted by a specific political party. At the end of June, Takeharu Yamanaka, former professor at Yokohama City University, announced his candidacy in order to “Block an IR bid.” Yamanaka is backed by the Constitutional Democratic Party and while he is calling for all opposing an IR to unite, it’s not clear if he will be able to achieve this.
House of Representatives and LDP (Liberal Democratic Party) member, and Chairman of the National Safety Commission, Hachiro Okonogi, has even resigned from the cabinet to run, calling for Yokohama to cancel its IR bid. This has put the LDP, who was unable to unify behind one candidate, at a loss.
Now that Hayashi, whom the LDP made it clear they would not back due to her age and having already served multiple terms, is going to run, the party faces an even bigger dilemma.
Yokohama city is Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga’s turf. It is one jurisdiction the LDP wants to keep at all costs. If the opposition were to take it from them, it would also end up affecting the House of Representatives election. Notably, the LDP also wants to make IRs a success as a matter of national policy.
With a flood of IR opposition candidates in the race, the only candidates in favor of an IR bid are Hayashi and former member of the House of Representatives and State Minister of Cabinet Office, 57-year old Mineyuki Fukuda. Fukuda initially stressed a neutral position on IRs but after receiving voter feedback that they did not understand his position, has since switched to a tone of low-key support.
Furthermore, over the past few days, former governor of Nagano, Yasuo Tanaka, 65, and Noburo Gohara, 66, who is former public prosecutor and attorney and has also served as a compliance advisor for the city of Yokohama, have expressed their intentions to run for mayor on an anti-IR platform.
Gohara said at a press conference at Yokohama City Hall on 7 July, “I am against a casino but want to support a referendum as a process to get the opinions of the people.”
Whatever the outcome, there is no doubt that Hayashi’s candidacy changes the landscape for an IR bid that had been standing on increasingly shaky ground.