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Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2012

EDITORIAL

Tokyo gubernatorial issues

Nine candidates have announced their candidacy for the Tokyo gubernatorial election, which will be held on Dec. 16, the same day as the Lower House election. Since Tokyo is the nation's capital and the center of Japan's political, economic and intellectual activities, the result of the gubernatorial election will have an impact on the whole country. But the candidates must make proposals to address the negative aspects of life in Tokyo rather than just its vibrant side so that Tokyoites will be able to live better lives.

The gubernatorial election will virtually be a four-way fight among former Vice Tokyo Gov. Naoki Inose, who was named by ex-Gov. Shintaro Ishihara as his heir and is supported by Komeito, the Japan Restoration Party (headed by Mr. Ishihara) and the Liberal Democratic Party; former Kanagawa Gov. Shigefumi Matsuzawa; Mr. Takashi Sasagawa, a former head of the LDP's executive council, and Mr. Kenji Utsunomiya, former head of the Japan Federation of Bar Associations, supported by Tomorrow Party of Japan (the Japan Future Party), the Japan Communist Party and the Social Democratic Party.

The candidates should clarify whether they will change or continue the legacy of Mr. Ishihara. On the positive side, he improved the metropolitan government's financial conditions, introduced a strict standard on exhaust emitted by diesel vehicles and internationalized Haneda Airport. But on the negative side, he poured ¥140 billion in ShinGinko Tokyo bank, which nearly went bankrupt. He also slashed social welfare measures, refusing to increase the number of intensive-care homes for aged people and metropolitan housing units, closing three special-care homes for children and abolishing monthly medical subsidies for bed-ridden elderly people. He also increased regimentation over school teachers, forcing them to sing "Kimigayo," for example.

The candidates also need to make clear how they would deal with problems arising from the rapid graying of Tokyo's population, including an increasing number of elderly people living isolated lives, and how to improve medical, nursing and other social welfare services that are vital for people embroiled in poverty or suffering from physical or mental disabilities. As a massive earthquake is expected to hit Tokyo in the future, another critical issue is how to make Tokyo more resilient to natural disasters.

Tokyo uses a large amount of electricity and the metropolitan government is a major shareholder of Tokyo Electric Power Co. In view of the effects of the crisis at Tepco's Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, the issue of nuclear power generation should be a campaign issue. Mr. Sasagawa and Mr. Utsunomiya are calling for phasing out of nuclear power.

The bottom line is clear and simple. The candidates should present policy measures that will help Tokyoites enjoy "wholesome and cultured living," as stated in Article 25 of the Constitution.



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