Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga’s Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and its allies were unable to win outright in local election in Tokyo on Sunday. This election was seen as an indicator of voter sentiment ahead of national polls due later this year.As per public broadcaster NHK, Suga’s party managed to win only 33 seats in Tokyo’s 123-member assembly. Suga’s party is just ahead of Tokyo Citizens First, the party of Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike, with 31 seats. Even with 23 won by its ally Komeito, LDP fell short of an outright majority — a target that had been considered within reach.
The disappointing result could put pressure on Suga, whose term as LDP president expires at the end of September. The head of the LDP is virtually assured of being prime minister, given the party’s dominance in parliament.
“It appears our seats are likely to be a little bit lower than what we have initially anticipated,” NHK had earlier quoted Taimei Yamaguchi, chair of the LDP’s election strategy committee, as saying.
Tokyo’s election came as the capital is preparing to host the Olympic Games whilst dealing with a resurgence of COVID-19.
With a general election due by October, Suga has staked his political career on successfully holding the Games, postponed from last year due to the virus, and boosting vaccine rollouts.
He has said he will bar spectators if necessary. But exit polls by broadcaster TBS showed 57% of respondents were still opposed to the Olympics going ahead on July 23 as planned.
Koike’s Tokyo Citizens First party wants the Olympics held without spectators while the opposition Constitutional Democrats and Communists have called for the Games to be cancelled or postponed.
Voters on Sunday said COVID-19 remained their chief concern. A resurgence of the pandemic in Japan has seen new COVID-19 infections in Tokyo rise to a more than five-week high, with 716 reported on Saturday.