EDITORIAL: Koike must keep promise, push policies that help Tokyo citizens
Former Defense Minister Yuriko Koike was elected Tokyo’s new governor on July 31, becoming the first female chief of the capital’s government. We hope Koike will capitalize on her trademark ability to send out effective messages in her role as the public face of Japan’s capital.
Koike won a landslide victory in the gubernatorial election despite failing to receive the endorsement of her Liberal Democratic Party, which fielded another candidate. The ruling party’s decision, based primarily on its partisan interests, probably provoked a backlash among voters in Tokyo.
The process in which opposition parties led by the Democratic Party chose a unified candidate also confused many voters.
During her campaign, Koike pledged to put priority on the interests of individual citizens. She should be true to her words and push through reforms to shift the focus of Tokyo’s policymaking from the interests of specific organizations to those of the entire population of the capital.
Koike needs to provide leadership to resolve a wide range of tough policy challenges, from the rapidly aging population to disaster preparedness for a huge earthquake that many experts warn could occur directly under Tokyo.
In particular, she must immediately review the financing plan for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics, focusing on the capital’s contribution. The total cost for the event, initially estimated at 700 billion yen ($6.8 billion), is now expected to balloon to 2 trillion yen or even 3 trillion yen. The challenge for Koike is to figure out ways to reduce the cost and decide on an appropriate burden for Tokyo.
Both the Tokyo Organizing Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games and the LDP members of the metropolitan assembly are calling for an increase in the capital’s share of the cost burden, emphasizing Tokyo’s responsibility due to its bid to host the event.
Discussing the issue, Koike criticized the Tokyo government’s opaque policymaking process as a “black box” and called for greater transparency. The issue of financing the 2020 Olympics and Paralympics will test her commitment to addressing the issue.
In an Asahi Shimbun survey of voters in Tokyo, “education and child-care support” was cited by the largest number of respondents as the policy area that they wanted the new governor to prioritize.
Tokyo’s child-care support for its citizens has national implications. Many young people who moved from rural areas to Tokyo are giving up having children because of an unfavorable environment for rearing children. This problem is accelerating Japan’s demographic decline.
During her campaign, Koike proposed various ideas to solve the problem of the estimated 8,500 children on waiting lists for day-care centers. Her ideas included the use of land owned by the metropolitan government and higher pay for child-care workers. Koike needs to make steady efforts to deal with this challenge.
On the other hand, Koike talked little about education.
She once argued that tragic incidents involving children, such as murders of family members, were a result of Japan’s “self-deprecating education” in the postwar period.
The Japan Society for History Textbook Reform, an organization devoted to helping the nation “overcome masochistic historical views,” backed Koike in the election, saying she was the only major candidate who supported its activities.
The law on regional educational administration was revised in 2014 to enhance the power of local government chiefs over education policy decisions. Instead of using her power as the governor to promote education based on specific values, Koike should serve as a champion of “diversity,” which she pledged to promote, in education.
In announcing her candidacy, Koike emphasized she was ready to confront the LDP in the metropolitan assembly. We welcome her stance if that means true competition for better, citizen-focused policies through serious debate at the assembly.
But we have had enough of the petty political fights over parochial interests.
After the resignation of two Tokyo governors--Naoki Inose and Yoichi Masuzoe--amid scandals, there is no room for further stagnation in the capital’s efforts to tackle its key policy challenges.