The Queen of Japanese Politics Keeps Getting Stronger

Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike continues to enjoy a high approval rating. According to a public opinion poll conducted jointly by the Sankei Shimbun and Fuji News Network in March, Governor Koike’s approval climbed 1.8 points since the February poll, rising to 79.3 percent.

 

Her numbers are interesting in that she enjoys stronger support among those who have a party affiliation than among those without, with 86.9 percent of Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ)-affiliated respondents supporting Koike. The Democratic Party of Japan is exploring the possibility of a closer relationship with Koike in anticipation of the Tokyo metropolitan elections on July 2, although it is unlikely that the DPJ will be able to respond to the expectations of its base.

 

Seeking to avoid a showdown with Koike, the DPJ made an announcement at the end of January regarding Koike’s popularity and even went so far as to change the Party’s name as used by factions within the Tokyo Municipal Assembly. However, on the national political front, the Komeito, which works in coalition with the Liberal Democratic Party, this month entered into a policy agreement with Koike, with substantial cooperation now underway between Koike and the Komeito in advance of the upcoming elections. The DPJ is clearly in an unenviable position.

 

 

Apart from December of 2016, when questions arose over revisions to the 2020 Tokyo Olympic/Paralympic facilities, the approval ratings for Koike, who was elected governor last July, have consistently been in the 80th and 90th percentiles.

 

According to the most recent poll, Koike enjoys higher support among women (84.3 percent) than men (74.0 percent), and has an approval rating greater than 80 percent across all age groups. By area, the Koike administration has an 84.8 percent approval rating—its highest anywhere—among her home-turf Diet districts in the Tokyo metropolitan area (a 2.9 point increase over the previous poll). After DPJ supporters, Koike’s next-highest approval level is found among those who support the Komeito, at 84.4 percent. Koike enjoys an 80 percent approval rating even among those who support the LDP, which is becoming increasingly confrontational in its relationship with the Tokyo governor.

 

Koike is thus the current queen of Japanese politics. Propelled along by the momentum of Koike’s popularity, the Tokyoites-First Party—the regional political party of which Koike is de facto leader—is aiming to obtain a single-party majority in the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly, and is even considering launching on the national political stage. But there are still factors which may sway public opinion, such as the issue of whether to relocate Tsukiji Market to Toyosu in Tokyo’s Edo Ward. The prospects for Koike thus remain impossible to foretell.

 

Precisely because the outcome of the Tokyo metropolitan election will influence politics on the national stage, the national government and the LDP continue to discuss the possibility of dissolving the lower house of the Diet before the Tokyo election as a way of stunting Koike’s momentum. It seems likely that the several opposition parties will ramp up their efforts in the weeks ahead.

 

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