The enduring unpopularity of IR developments among the Japanese public, as well as the much weaker position of the Shinzo Abe government in comparison to earlier phases, means that local elections may still prove decisive as to whether or not bids will go forward.
It is therefore worthwhile to consider the upcoming electoral schedules for the candidate prefectures and municipalities.
Nagasaki is arguably the politically safest of the IR candidate locations since pro-IR politicians are in a substantial majority and even the majority of the general public is not, as far as the most recent polling data suggests, against the Huis Ten Bosch development.
Governor Hodo Nakamura doesn’t face another election until around February 2022. Even more, Sasebo Mayor Norio Tomonaga, the Nagasaki Prefectural Assembly, and Sasebo City Council are not expected to face elections until April 2023.
For the time being, then, the electoral calendar appears to pose no challenges for this candidate location.
The situation is not too different in Wakayama. While the general public in this prefecture does seem to be more opposed to IR development than their peers in Nagasaki, the incumbent conservative politicians have been securely entrenched.
Governor Yoshinobu Nisaka, who has been the driving force of the IR initiative, faces no election until November 2022. Wakayama Mayor Masahiro Obana’s next election challenge comes only slightly earlier, in July 2022.
The next prefectural assembly and city council elections come in April 2023.
The Osaka leaders are reasonably secure, though politics in this constituency can always be full of surprises.
One such X factor is the Osaka administrative reform plan that aims to unite the prefecture and the city into a single metropolis. A popular referendum on this plan may go forward in November of this year, and it is central to the policy agenda of the incumbent leaders. A defeat in November could have unpredictable consequences.
Otherwise, Governor Hirofumi Yoshimura, Mayor Ichiro Matsui, as well as both the prefectural assembly and city council have terms stretching out until April 2023, safely into the future.
Yokohama is the municipality where the political situation is far more dicey. Mayor Fumiko Hayashi faces an election in July 2021, and at age 75 she may not even be running. Moreover, with the strong opposition to casino development in Yokohama, it is questionable whether or not any candidate will be openly pro-IR, and if they could win if they do take such a policy stance.
Hayashi does have enough time remaining to submit the city’s application to the national government, provided that the Abe regime sticks to the current schedule, but if she is immediately followed by an anti-casino mayor, presumably that person could choose to withdraw the application.
It is also easy to predict that the casino issue will be one of the top—if not the very top—issue in next summer’s mayoral campaign.
The city council is unlikely to be a factor, however, with their next elections scheduled for April 2023.
Tokyo is not currently an open IR candidate, but some observers expect that they will be. For example, an April research brief from Global Market Advisors (GMA) declared:
"Regarding the perceived crown prize of Tokyo, GMA has long stated that it is not a matter of if but when they will announce that they will participate in the process. Such an announcement could occur by the end of this summer following the Governor’s reelection."
While AGB Nippon is not aware of any certainty about the prospect that Governor Yuriko Koike, after presumably being reelected on July 5, will suddenly declare that the Tokyo Metropolitan District is part of the IR race, it is not entirely out of the realm of possibilities, so it is noted here.
At any rate, what this brief survey shows is that, for the time being, only the high-stakes candidacy of Yokohama appears in serious political jeopardy at the current juncture.
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