Tokyo Governor Welcomes a Nod of Support From the Party She Defeated

(Bloomberg) -- If Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike wants to attend both the opening and closing ceremonies of next year’s Olympics, she may need to win a second term first. Her current term ends in the middle of the Games.

That may be one reason why Koike is welcoming recent gestures of support from Japan’s ruling party, a bloc she quit and once attempted to take down. Toshihiro Nikai, the secretary general of the Liberal Democratic Party, told reporters earlier this month that he would provide her full support if she seeks another four-year term.

Tokyo Governor Welcomes a Nod of Support From the Party She Defeated

“To receive strong support from the national ruling parties, the LDP and Komeito, is positive for Tokyo,” Koike, 66, told Bloomberg Television on Wednesday. She declined to confirm whether she would run again, saying only that she was focused on preparations for the 2020 Olympics.

Koike’s embrace of Nikai’s endorsement is surprising because she led a rebellion against the long-ruling LDP three years ago that captured the public’s imagination and propelled her into the governor’s office. The former defense and environmental minister then formed her own political group and thrashed the LDP again in a race for the male-dominated local Tokyo assembly in 2017.

Koike’s term ends July 30, 2020, halfway through the Tokyo Olympics. She might need LDP support to help avoid an embarrassing change of leadership during the capital’s biggest event in decades, although it’s possible the government could change the election date to avoid clashing with the global sporting event.

Koike, who was also once a journalist, had a long history of switching parties before becoming the first woman to run for the leadership of the LDP. While her policies often differ little from Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s, she has lamented its inability to change.

At the height of her popularity, Abe headed off the threat to his national leadership by calling a snap general election in October 2017 before she had a chance to prepare -- consolidating his power in a landslide victory. Since then, Koike has largely avoided national politics.

“There were a lot of things I wanted to do at the national level, but I couldn’t manage to bring them about,” she said. “So I decided to do things in this mega city, the capital of Japan, that I couldn’t do at the national level,” she added, citing anti-smoking measures and promoting women as examples.

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.