Sunday’s vote is important as a witness to a lower house election due to take place by October.
Voters in Japan’s capital Tokyo are voting in a city assembly election dominated by concerns about health risks during the Olympics as cases of COVID-19 continue to rise.
Sunday’s vote will have little impact on the games, which are due to open in three weeks, but are important as a barometer for a lower house election due by October.
Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga’s term as party chairman will expire at the end of September, and a strong performance by his Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) in the Tokyo poll could help him land another term, analysts said.
The leader of the LDP is virtually guaranteed to be prime minister, given the party’s large majority in parliament.
A recent poll by the daily Yomiuri Shimbun showed that 23% of those polled said they would vote for the PLD candidates, compared to 17% for the Tokyo Citizens First party and 8% for the Japanese Communist Party.
The Tokyo Citizens First party, founded by the governor of Tokyo, Yuriko Koike, is now the largest party in the city’s assembly and wants the Olympics to take place without spectators.
Suga said he intended to organize the matches but would not hesitate to ban spectators if deemed necessary.
The Tokyo Olympics, postponed for a year due to virus outbreaks, begin on July 23.
Opinion polls show that most people want the games canceled or postponed further.
Some medical experts have warned it could become a COVID-19 super-spreader event, warning that new cases in Tokyo could reach thousands. The capital reported 716 new infections on Saturday, its highest level in more than five weeks.
During this time, only about 10 percent of the population has been fully immunized.
In Sunday’s poll, 271 candidates contested 127 seats. Eligible voters total 9.8 million people in the megalopolis with a population of nearly 14 million.
“I focused on pandemic measures,” wrote a 26-year-old, hearing-impaired independent actor in a note to a reporter from the Reuters news agency outside the polling station.
He also asked not to be named.
“I chose the candidate who would take action to save those infected because I am afraid of losing my job and my income if I am infected,” he said, declining to name the party. “I don’t care about political parties.
The polling stations close at 8:00 p.m. (11:00 GMT) and the counting of the ballots will begin immediately thereafter.