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Published: 11:08, August 22, 2021
Yokohama mayor election seen as bellwether for Japan PM Suga
By Reuters
Published:11:08, August 22, 2021 By Reuters

In this file photo dated July 8, 2021, Japan's Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga speaks during a news conference at his official residence in Tokyo. (NICOLAS DATICHE / POOL PHOTO VIA AP, FILE)

TOKYO - Yokohama voters were casting ballots for mayor on Sunday in an election expected to affect unpopular Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga's prospects for keeping his post amid a COVID-19 surge across Japan.

A loss by the Suga-backed Liberal Democratic Party candidate in Suga's home turf just south of Tokyo would pile pressure on the premier, whose approval ratings slid below 30 percent in August, fanning concerns in the LDP about his ability to lead into a general election this year.

A loss by the Suga-backed Liberal Democratic Party candidate in Suga's home turf just south of Tokyo would pile pressure on the premier, whose approval ratings slid below 30 percent in August

Suga, who took office last September after predecessor Shinzo Abe quit citing ill health, is struggling to contain the pandemic, with national daily infections hitting a record 25,000 last week.

ALSO READ: Japan PM Suga has health check as aides deny problem, Jiji says

Hachiro Okonogi, backed by Suga, is running in a crowded field of eight including the incumbent mayor, two former governors and opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan candidate Takeharu Yamanaka, a professor of public health.

Although Yokohama is in Suga's constituency in parliament, a survey conducted by a local newspaper in mid-August found Okonogi trailing Yamanaka, reflecting concerns over the government's handling of the pandemic.

Kanagawa, the prefecture where Yokohama is located, has been under a state of emergency since Aug 2, but infections have continued to rise. The prefecture recorded a record 2,878 cases on Friday, according to public broadcaster NHK.

Suga's term as LDP president ends in September. A general election must be held by Nov 28.

READ MORE: Poll: Most Japan firms want Suga out of power despite Olympic hit


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