Recall campaign against Yokohama mayor could be formidable

All of the candidate locations seeking IR development are facing local citizen protests of one sort or another, but the one that really deserves attention is the recall campaign against Yokohama Mayor Fumiko Hayashi.

Hayashi was always going to face substantial local political difficulties pushing her IR development plans to fruition, but her own dishonesty is the root cause why she truly needs to fear the gathering recall campaign against her.

Back in 2016, Hayashi made clear that she supported IR development for the Yamashita Pier location, and her administration commissioned a number of studies and assigned staff to the project.

But when Kazuyoshi Nagashima, a former one-term House of Representatives lawmaker and former mayor of Zushi, threw his hat into the ring in January 2017 to challenge her reelection as mayor, Hayashi opted to engage in a deception.

Nagashima made opposition to a casino the centerpiece of his campaign against her, and Hayashi obviously didn’t want to campaign on that policy battlefield, where she knew most of the local public would be against her. Therefore, in order to put the IR issue off the center stage, she quickly claimed that she had changed her pro-IR development views and had become a “blank slate” on the issue.

The two challengers she ultimately faced in the July 2017 election both asserted that her pro-casino stance had not, in fact, changed, but by dodging the issue, Hayashi herself was able to stick to discussions highlighting her previous eight-year record as mayor.

Hayashi won her third term against her two challengers by a very comfortable margin, even as exit polls revealed a very strong majority of the local public against casino development. She then played for time for more than two years, keeping up the public pretense of being a “blank slate” on the matter, all the while making quiet preparations.

It should be pointed out that Hayashi could have taken another road. The political leaders of Osaka, Wakayama, and Nagasaki, for example, took ownership of their respective pro-IR policies even though it was of some political disadvantage to them. Now they face no similar recall campaigns because they faced their elections honestly and prevailed in spite of their pro-IR platforms. Indeed, Hayashi probably could have won in July 2017 in any case.

Hayashi’s announcement in August 2019 that she was not only in favor of IR development, but felt a “sense of crisis” that it was absolutely necessary for the future well-being of the city, didn’t sound much like someone who had only recently and reluctantly moved away from being a “blank slate.”

Casino opponents in Yokohama were naturally appalled, though not really surprised. They could now go to the less committed members of the public with the strong argument that Hayashi was a liar who had betrayed the public trust and must therefore be recalled.

Indeed, it is very difficult to argue that Yokohama’s IR candidacy has any democratic legitimacy. There has been no popular referendum and not even a mayoral candidate who has won office on a pro-IR platform.

Moreover, the Hayashi recall campaign looks much better organized than just the usual picket lines of a handful of elderly Japanese. They have a website and active social media accounts. They are recruiting volunteers and appear to have the joint backing of all of the left-of-center political parties.

Their website explains why the recall approach is necessary: “It’s very sad to relate, but the mayor and the city council, despite the voices of the citizens speaking out in opposition to casinos, intend to forcibly make a casino bid. Looking at the mayor’s attitude so far, if we want to stop this casino bid, there is simply no other option than to recall the mayor.”

Covid-19 resulted in a delay in the recall campaign, but this week they announced that in October and November they would attempt to collect the roughly 500,000 signatures of local residents that are needed to trigger a recall election.

With its population of about 3,760,000 people, gaining 500,000 signatures in favor of a recall vote is a high hurdle to cross, and most such campaigns fail in Japan.

Still, it would be a mistake to write off its chances entirely. If there is one current IR candidate city where the prospect of a total collapse of a pro-IR administration is quite real, either in a recall vote or in the next mayoral elections scheduled for the summer of 2021, it is Yokohama. (AGB Nippon)

Previous articleKangwon Land delays opening another week to June 22
Next articleCovid-19 creates “unsustainable” eSports bubble

Related Articles

Hayashi IR

Yokohama mayor gives first nod to democracy

Yokohama Mayor Fumiko Hayashi has, for the very first time, acknowledged that the people of her city might actually have a voice in whether or not to build a major IR along the coastline.

Yokohama mayor says she would respect IR referendum result

Yokohama Mayor Fumiko Hayashi stated for the first time that should the city be forced to hold a referendum on IR development and lose the vote, she would respect the people’s decision and withdraw the city’s candidacy.

Japan IRs have a new schedule

After spending most of this year in denial or else paralyzed by the crisis of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Japanese central government has finally made a credible decision about its IR development plans, which is to push back the timeline by nine months.

Yokohama seeks dialogue with operators on impact of pandemic

Recognizing that the Covid-19 pandemic may have exercised an important impact on IR development, Yokohama Mayor Fumiko Hayashi has indicated that her municipal administration would seek a dialogue on this issue with interested IR operators. “The revitalization of tourism and the MICE industry is indispensable for the long-term advance of Yokohama’s economy,” Hayashi declared, “but […]

Yokohama anti-casino signature drives preparing to launch

The two major citizen group efforts to head off IR development plans in Yokohama are preparing to launch their signature drives, keeping the political pressure on even as national policy has stalled. Launching first, from September 4 until November 4, is the petition demanding a popular referendum over the city’s IR development plans. The aim […]

Yokohama mayor indefinitely delays IR development plans

Yokohama Mayor Fumiko Hayashi stated at a press conference that her city would not be issuing its local IR implementation policy this month, as planned, and that the delay would be indefinite until the central government revealed its own directions. Hayashi did indicate, however, that her firm intention to build a major IR at Yamashita […]

October start for signature drive to recall pro-IR Yokohama mayor

A citizens group opposing the development of the Yokohama IR has affirmed that its signature drive to trigger a recall vote against Mayor Fumiko Hayashi will kick off in October. The organizers need to gather about 500,000 signatures in a two month period from the city’s population of about 3,760,000 people, regarded as a high […]

Yokohama mayor: local IR plans must wait on central government policy

Yokohama Mayor Fumiko Hayashi has acknowledged that her city’s implementation policies, originally scheduled for publication in June, must wait until after the central government finally issues its long overdue IR Basic Plan. She added that any prospect that her city could publish its implementation policies by the end of August had now dried up. “We […]

Yokohama mayor supports current IR development schedule

Although she regards the January to July 2021 application window for IR licensing to be “pretty strict,” Yokohama Mayor Fumiko Hayashi made clear that her municipality would not be requesting any policy change from the central government. “It’s not a good thing for the national schedule to change,” she remarked, “We are not requesting any […]

Public opposition to Yokohama IR appears to intensify

It has often been suggested that Japanese local communities will become more understanding of IR development projects once their nature is better explained, but public opinion polling in the city of Yokohama seems to be showing the opposite trend. According to exit polls at the time of the July 2017 mayoral elections, three years ago, […]