TOKYO -- Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike announced her reelection bid on Friday, the day after the Tokyo Municipal Government decided to lift all coronavirus-related restrictions on business on June 19, as the capital faces the challenges of hosting the Olympic Games next year.
Koike, the first female leader of Tokyo, is known for her no-nonsense approach and is widely credited for bringing the coronavirus outbreak under control in the capital city.
"Dealing with the coronavirus is the most immediate task for us," Koike said in a press conference, as the capital reported 25 new cases on Friday, a third straight day of rising infections that has increased the seven-day average to 19. "The fight against the coronavirus has just started. I want to have Tokyo prepared for a second wave of infection," she stressed.
Her proposals include establishing a Tokyo version of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, further development of medical and virus testing infrastructure, more support for medical workers, and increasing stockpiles of essential medical supplies such as masks and hand-sanitizers.
The 67-year-old former TV presenter is expected to run as an independent in a vote to be held July 5.
She faces challenges from Kenji Utsunomiya, former chairman of the Japan Federation of Bar Associations and a liberal candidate, and Taisuke Ono, a former deputy governor of Kumamoto Prefecture who is backed by the opposition Japan Innovation Party.
But the incumbent governor is expected to secure support from the Liberal Democratic Party of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Koike is a former member of the LDP but left the party and defeated the party-backed candidate in the previous gubernatorial election.
Another challenge facing the capital is the economy, she said, and vowed to support businesses' shift to digitization. "I will support 5G rollout. Communication infrastructure is essential in today's economy. We cannot win the global competition -- or make Tokyo a global financial center -- with 4G," she stressed.
If she wins reelection, she will preside over the capital while it hosts the Summer Olympic Games in July-August 2021 following a yearlong postponement. Making the event safe, simple and inexpensive is a new guiding principle, she stressed.
Olympic organizers are already exploring various measures to allow the event to take place without risking a coronavirus outbreak in the city. Measures under consideration include requiring temperature checks and hand sanitizing at the entrance of stadiums, leaving an empty seat between each spectator, reducing the size of opening marches, and cutting the length of ceremonies.
There are many other unresolved issues, she said, including how to receive international athletes, whether to have spectators in events, and how to prevent infections from being brought into Japan. "Instead of giving up the Olympics, we'd like to work toward the goal of making Tokyo and Japan a safe place to hold the Olympics," she said.
The election will also be a chance for the city's 11 million voters to vote on Koike's performance in the last four years.
In the previous election, she ran on a platform of reforming Tokyo, and introduced a series of initiatives, including reviewing the relocation of the Tsukiji fish market and cutting the cost of hosting the Olympics, with mixed results.
Koike has envisaged a capital city that will be more friendly to elderly and handicapped people, but the current pandemic crisis and massive relief outlays for small businesses have left the city's coffers depleted of cash ahead of the next term.