Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike said Friday she will run for re-election next month, seeking to continue to oversee the Japanese capital's response to the coronavirus and preparations for the Summer Olympics.
Koike indicated she will run as an independent without support from Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's ruling Liberal Democratic Party, stressing that she wants the backing of voters, not political parties.
While acknowledging that Tokyo has to continue to be wary of the coronavirus, Koike also said the economy must start reopening.
"Businesses are hurting. Tokyo's economy is the driver of the Japanese economy, and we have to bring it back to a healthy state," she told a press conference.
The announcement came a day after the Tokyo metropolitan government lifted its warning over a possible rebound in infections, clearing the way to further ease restrictions on business activities.
Official campaigning for the gubernatorial election starts next Thursday, with voting to take place on July 5.
Koike said she will do most of her campaigning online, forgoing stump speeches that could draw large crowds and risk spreading the virus.
She stressed the progress made during her four years in office in cutting down on wasteful spending by the metropolitan government and empowering women in the workplace, including by ensuring there is enough capacity at day-care centers and nursery schools.
"Women make up half of the population and it is a waste to not put their talents to use," she said.
A former LDP lawmaker, Koike served as environment minister and defense minister before giving up her lower house seat in 2016 to run for Tokyo governor.
She won in a landslide despite not having LDP support, and during her first four-year term has cultivated an image as a capable leader in her work preparing for the Summer Games, which have been postponed to next year due to COVID-19.
Her rivals include Kenji Utsunomiya, a prominent lawyer and former head of the Japan Federation of Bar Associations, and Taisuke Ono, who recently stepped down as vice governor of Kumamoto Prefecture. Both are backed by opposition parties.