Tokyo Election Race Kicks Off to Replace Ishihara as Governor

The race to lead the Japanese capital of Tokyo kicks off today, after China critic Shintaro Ishihara ended a 13-year run in office by resigning to run for the national parliament.

Acting governor Naoki Inose, who served as Ishihara’s deputy for five years, is an independent candidate backed by his former boss and the main opposition Liberal Democratic Party. Residents in the city of more than 13 million people will vote on Dec. 16, the same day as parliamentary elections.

Inose, a writer and historian, pledges to replace aging power plants and improve the subway network in Tokyo, which has a $1 trillion economy the size of South Korea that accounts for almost a fifth of Japan’s gross domestic product. He will also continue a bid to host the Olympics in 2020 and to make Tokyo’s Haneda airport an international hub, according to his website.

Inose, 66, faces competition from at least seven other candidates. They include attorney Kenji Utsunomiya, a former head of the Japan Federation of Bar Associations; former LDP science minister Takashi Sasagawa; and Shigefumi Matsuzawa, a former governor of Kanagawa prefecture.

Last week, Ishihara merged his political party with the Japan Restoration Party of Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto which has also endorsed Inose. Ishihara’s proposal in April to buy an chain of uninhabited islands also claimed by China forced Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda’s government to do so in September, sparking violent demonstrations in China.

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