Tensions in Tokyo ahead of 2020 Games

Ms Tamayo Marukawa Ms Yuriko Koike
Ms Tamayo Marukawa
Ms Tamayo Marukawa Ms Yuriko Koike
Ms Yuriko Koike

'Bad chemistry' between new Olympics minister, Tokyo governor has some worried

TOKYO • A day after Ms Yuriko Koike took office as the first female governor of the Japanese capital, another former TV newscaster was named Japan's new Olympics minister.

The appointments have led to concerns that the partnership could hamper preparations for the 2020 Games.

Ms Koike, 64, and Ms Tamayo Marukawa, 45, are expected to work hand-in-hand as Japan prepares to stage the sporting extravaganza in four years.

However, some metropolitan government officials have voiced concern over the apparent "bad chemistry" between the two female politicians, reported Kyodo News Agency.

During the campaign for the July 31 Tokyo gubernatorial election, Ms Marukawa, a former newscaster with TV Asahi, had harshly criticised Ms Koike's candidacy.

Ms Koike, a former TV newscaster, had run in the election as an independent after failing to get her party's endorsement.

The ruling Liberal Democratic Party's (LDP) fielded former internal affairs minister Hiroya Masuda instead. Ms Koike, a former defence minister, was elected in a landslide over the party's favoured candidate on Sunday.

While stumping for Mr Masuda on the campaign trail, Ms Marukawa had said Ms Koike was "only good at grandstanding".

She even said Ms Koike's election as Tokyo governor would be a "waste of time" because she would be caught in a feud with the metropolitan assembly and not be able to move any policy forward.

Ms Marukawa's role as the Minister of Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games is to coordinate views between the national and the metropolitan governments in the run-up to the 2020 Olympics.

Compounding matters, some metropolitan officials say Ms Koike is also rumoured to be on bad terms with Mr Yoshiro Mori, head of the Tokyo Olympics organising committee, according to Kyodo.

"There are so many things we need to make progress with, but this lineup only makes us worry about possible turmoil," one senior official said, in reference to the combination of Ms Koike, Ms Marukawa and Mr Mori.

But Ms Koike has received a vote of confidence from Mr Mori, a former prime minister.

"She is a powerful woman with a lot of executive capability," Mr Mori said in translated comments on Wednesday. He added the Games will be a success under her watch.

On Wednesday Ms Marukawa sought to allay concerns over likely tensions between her and Ms Koike.

She said at her inaugural news conference as minister that "it's crucially important for us to coordinate properly with Tokyo".

She pledged to work with the new governor on the task ahead, reported Kyodo.

"Work is currently being undertaken to determine the division of roles (in the games' organisation), and based on the outcome of that work, I want the division to be made clear," she said.

Mr Toshiaki Endo, the former minister in charge of the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games, said since Mr Mori, Ms Marukawa and Ms Koike were all politicians, he expected them to "behave as grown-ups".

Tokyo's Olympic preparations have suffered high-profile setbacks including soaring costs, allegations of corruption and an embarrassing scandal over an allegedly plagiarised logo.

In a show of unity, Ms Koike met Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, president of the LDP, on Thursday in their first meeting since her victory in the Tokyo gubernatorial election.

He told her she had "won a point" over the party with her resounding victory, reported Agence France-Presse.

"The government will cooperate with Tokyo," he said in remarks aired on television.

Ms Koike told the Prime Minister that "the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics must be successful for both Tokyo residents and the Japanese people". "I'd like to see us cooperate for that objective," she was quoted as saying by local media.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 06, 2016, with the headline 'Tensions in Tokyo ahead of 2020 Games'. Print Edition | Subscribe