SAWT BEIRUT INTERNATIONAL

| 1 August 2021, Sunday |

Tokyo goes to the polls as pandemic-shadowed Olympics loom

Just 19 days before the Olympic Games begin, Tokyo residents went to the polls on Sunday to elect members of the metropolitan assembly, with polls indicating that Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga’s Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) was likely to win.

In the shadow of the coronavirus outbreak, the capital’s election will have minimal impact on the long-awaited Games, but it will be vital as a barometer for a lower house election that must be held by October.

Suga’s term as party president expires at the end of September, and analysts predict a strong showing by his party in the Tokyo election could help him earn a second term. The head of the LDP is virtually assured of being prime minister, given the party’s large majority in parliament.

“I voted for a candidate who is not LDP, partially because I am against holding the Olympics, though it would be too late to change now,” said a 60-year-old female office worker, who asked not to be identified.

“But my main interest was to pick the candidate who has more pragmatic policy, including environmental actions, rather than the coronavirus or the Olympics,” she said.

Polls close at 8 p.m. (1100 GMT)

According to a recent poll conducted by the Yomiuri Shimbun daily, 23% of respondents said they would vote for LDP candidates, compared to 17% for Tokyo Citizens First and 8% for the Japanese Communist Party.

Tokyo Citizens First wants the Olympics to be held without spectators, while the Japanese Communist Party wants them to be canceled. Suga has stated that he intends to hold the Games, but that he will not hesitate to exclude spectators if necessary.

With 46 of the 127 seats in the metropolitan assembly, Tokyo Citizens First is currently the largest party, followed by the LDP with 25. In the 2017 election, the regional party founded by Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike won by a landslide.

On July 23, the Tokyo Olympics, which were postponed for a year due to viral epidemics, will begin.

The election comes as the pandemic in Japan resurfaces, with Tokyo reporting 716 new COVID-19 cases on Saturday, the largest number in more than five weeks.

In a note to a reporter outside the polling station, a 26-year-old freelance actor who is deaf said, “My focus on this election was the pandemic measures.” He also requested anonymity.

“I chose the candidate who would take action to save diseased individuals because I am frightened of losing my job and money if I become infected,” he explained, omitting to name the political party. “I’m not interested in political parties.”