Amid heavy snowfall, Tokyo goes to the polls to elect a new governor

Voters listen to an election campaign speech by former Japanese Prime Minister and candidate in the Tokyo gubernatorial election Morihiro Hosokawa on Feb 8, 2014. Tokyo residents braved through the snow on Sunday to go to the polls to choose a new go
Voters listen to an election campaign speech by former Japanese Prime Minister and candidate in the Tokyo gubernatorial election Morihiro Hosokawa on Feb 8, 2014. Tokyo residents braved through the snow on Sunday to go to the polls to choose a new governor. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

Tokyo residents braved through the snow on Sunday to go to the polls to choose a new governor.

To reach polling stations, many residents had to pick their way slowly through pavements covered in snow, ice and slush following heavy snowfalls for most of Saturday.

Snow storms the whole of Saturday dumped 27 cm of snow on the city, the highest in 45 years.

Fortunately, trains and subways were mostly back to normal operations on Sunday.

Before polling stations opened at 7am (6am Singapore time), officials were busy shovelling snow off sidewalks to facilitate access to the stations. Over 600 people were injured on Saturday in snow-related accidents.

Although Tokyo is bathed in bright winter sunshine on Sunday, Saturday's heavy snow may deter many voters from going out to cast their ballots, making election predictions much more difficult.

In pre-election surveys, former health minister Yoichiro Masuzoe leads a field of 16 candidates. Behind him are former prime minister Morihiro Hosokawa and lawyer Kenji Utsunomiya.

But a poor turnout is nevertheless expected to benefit Mr Masuzoe, who is backed by the two-party ruling coalition comprising Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's Liberal Democratic Party and the New Komeito party.

No policy surprises are expected if Mr Masuzoe wins.

But if Mr Hosokawa scores an upset victory, his call for Japan to reject nuclear power as an energy source could have an impact on national energy policy.

Sunday's election was made necessary when the last governor Naoki Inose had to step down after accepting 50 million yen in cash from a scandal-tainted hospital operator.

wengkin@sph.com.sg

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