Hayashi may enter Yokohama mayoral race, reviving IR prospects

Fumiko Hayashi
Fumiko Hayashi (file)

Incumbent Yokohama Mayor Fumiko Hayashi has, according to the Mainichi Shinbun, decided to enter the mayoral race on a pro-IR policy platform, as her chances of victory are rising due to the clutter of anti-casino candidates that she would face.

IR development is the biggest issue in the Yokohama mayoral race, and most voters are nearly certain to cast their votes for someone who opposes the IR. However, with several major candidates splitting the anti-casino vote and with Hayashi as the only major pro-IR candidate, the chances of her winning the race with something like a 40% vote share are clearly improving.

Earlier this week, another major anti-IR candidate, former Nagano Governor Yasuo Tanaka, entered the race as an independent.

The obvious remedy for anti-casino forces would be to consolidate behind a single candidate—as they had originally planned—but this is likely to prove impossible.

Professor Takeharu Yamanaka is the candidate supported by the opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan and the leaders of last year’s referendum campaign, the Yokohama Citizens’ Association to Bring to Power an Anti-Casino Mayor.

However, with former National Public Safety Commission Chairman Hachiro Okonogi of the ruling party now in the race as an anti-IR candidate, it is highly dubious that either of the two will bow out to support the other.

Meanwhile, Tanaka joined the race after this dynamic was already clear, so it seems that he is willing to risk the chance of inadvertently throwing the victory to Hayashi.

The upshot is that the anti-casino forces seem to have made a mess of it. Their long delay in announcing a unified candidate and the political inexperience of the man they chose may have encouraged others, who smelled weakness, to jump into the race.

Hayashi’s entry to the race on a pro-IR platform may, however, hit Okonogi the hardest. With the local chapter of the ruling party and its powerful machinery unwilling to unite behind him—clearly preferring a pro-IR stance—its difficult to see who his natural constituency will be. He may soon regret resigning from the Cabinet for what could become an embarrassing showing in his hometown.

Hayashi would likely pick up the support of both the Yokohama Chamber of Commerce & Industry and most of the rank and file members of the ruling party.

The bottom line is that the prospects for IR development, which looked nearly dead a week ago, are now becoming much more competitive.