Masuzoe still leading Tokyo gubernatorial race: Kyodo survey

Former health minister Yoichi Masuzoe continues to lead the race to win the Feb. 9 Tokyo gubernatorial election, the latest Kyodo News survey showed Sunday.

Masuzoe, 65, an independent supported by the Liberal Democratic Party-led ruling coalition, remains ahead of former Prime Minister Morihiro Hosokawa, 76, and Kenji Utsunomiya, 67, the former head of the Japan Federation of Bar Associations, according to the survey and Kyodo News' political analysis.

The same order of candidates was observed in the previous Kyodo survey released on Jan. 24.

In the telephone survey conducted over the weekend of 1,540 randomly dialed households, which received responses from 1,040, 32.6 percent were undecided about who to vote for, compared with 43.0 percent in the previous poll on Jan. 23 and 24. A total of 1040 people gave answers.

The survey also showed 30.6 percent believe the economy and employment is the most important issue in the election, while 27.3 percent said the aging population and low birthrate as well as welfare. Nuclear power generation and the issue of energy was third at 14.7 percent, down nearly 4 points from the previous poll.

Masuzoe has vowed to use his experience as health, labor and welfare minister to improve the capital's social welfare programs.

Both Hosokawa and Utsunomiya are opposed to nuclear energy. Hosokawa has spent much of the campaign calling for a shift to renewable energy from nuclear power generation, while Utsunomiya, backed by the Japanese Communist Party and the Social Democratic Party, has treated nuclear energy and other issues more equally.

In the survey, 46.1 percent of the respondents said candidates' policies would determine who they vote for and more than 90 percent said they were interested in the election.

Campaigning officially kicked off on Jan. 23 for the election to choose the successor to Naoki Inose, who resigned in December over a money scandal.