LDP shock as minister in charge of casino regulator reveals intention to contest Yokohama mayor election on anti-IR platform

The city of Yokohama’s IR candidacy continues to make waves in local politics, and there has been another unexpected turn in the crucial municipal elections.

According to Jiji Press, Hachiro Okonogi, 55, chairman of the Liberal Democratic Party’s National Public Security Commission, began preparing to run for municipal elections at the end of the current mayor’s term in August. He has indicated he will oppose an IR candidacy in what has become a critical battleground for mayoral candidates.

No one had anticipated this development.

The city of Yokohama is currently issuing a tender for its IR offering, after recently revealing that only two consortia, those led by Genting Singapore and Melco Resorts & Entertainment, have qualified to continue their offers.

As preparations continue, the activities of groups opposing a Yokohama IR, and in particular those opposing a Yokohama casino, have intensified. The municipal elections, the results of which are due to be announced on Sunday August 22, will determine the direction of all future city policy. Depending on who is elected, the IR candidacy could be dropped on the first day of a new term.

Independent candidates include current city council member Masaki Ota (75) and Akiko Fujimura, 48, deputy director of an animal welfare group, both opposed to casinos, as well as former House member representatives and current deputy. Kanagawa Prefecture Minister Mineyuki Fukuda (57), who shows up on a neutral platform regarding an IR offer.

Mayor Fumiko Hayashi (75), currently in his third term, is a supporter of an IR candidacy and has reportedly expressed interest in a fourth term. However, the internal rules of the Liberal Democratic Party state that candidates must serve only three consecutive terms. Additionally, Hayashi is elderly and there are concerns about his health, so the LDP does not appear likely to support his candidacy.

On June 15, the Kanagawa branch of the Constitutional Democratic Party, which opposes an IR candidacy, announced its support for Professor Takeharu Yamanaka (48) of the city’s University Academy of Medicine. of Yokohama as an independent candidate. However, the opponents [of a casino] did not exactly rally to unite in favor of Yamanaka. Some party members and resident groups that organize opposition activities have shown their reluctance to do so and the Japanese Communist Party, another opponent of an IR, said, “We will see first if we are of agreement on policies other than opposition to IR. . “

News of LDP representative Okonogi’s intention to show up landed on Sunday and took people by surprise.

Okonogi is a member of the House of Representatives who is currently serving her eighth term. He has been a minister since the Abe administration and is now chairman of the National Public Security Commission in the Suga administration. He occupies an important role as Minister of State for Disaster Management (Disaster Prevention and Ocean Policy) and Minister of State for Disaster Management and Territorial Disputes. Specifically, he is the minister in charge of the Casino Regulatory Commission, putting his anti-casino stance at odds with one of his current government duties.

Okonoji will step down from those posts to run in the municipal elections on a position different from the official party line of supporting IR, which has caused a shock among officials.

Okonogi is expected to join the list of candidates taking anti-IR positions, which currently includes Ota, Fujimura and Yamanaka. The only neutral candidate at this point is Fukuda, and no candidate has come out in favor of an IR.

If neither the promoters nor the supporters of the IRs can unite behind a single pro-IR candidate, their votes will be divided.

All eyes are on when and who the LDP will nominate as a candidate. The election of the mayor remains the biggest obstacle to an IR in Yokohama. If the offer is canceled following the election, rumor has it that Tokyo may be ready to jump into the IR fray. Tokyo is said to be constantly ready for such a campaign.

The election of the mayor of Yokohama is likely to have a huge impact on how the future of integrated resorts plays out across Japan.

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