National / Politics

With victory in hand, Koike to step down as head of Tomin First

by Magdalena Osumi

Staff Writer

A day after leading Tomin First no Kai (Tokyoites First) to a landslide victory in the metropolitan assembly election, Gov. Yuriko Koike reaffirmed her commitment to reform but said she would resign as leader of the upstart party to focus on the job at hand.

“I would like to focus on my role as governor,” she told reporters Monday at Tomin First’s office in Shinjuku Ward.

In local politics, the governor and the assembly are elected separately as part of a system of checks and balances in which the assembly’s role is to keep tabs on the governor, who traditionally runs as an independent. During this election, however, Koike broke with tradition by agreeing to serve as president of her fledgling party to solidify its identity and lure more voters. Critics said that would undermine the assembly’s ability to keep Koike in check.

Kazusa Noda, Tomin First’s secretary-general, was the party’s leader before Koike took over on June 1.

Tomin First proved wildly successful in Sunday’s election, with 49 of its 50 candidates winning seats, up drastically from its pre-election strength of six. It is now the largest party in the 127-seat assembly.

The Liberal Democratic Party, meanwhile, was handed its worst defeat ever, falling to just 23 seats after starting out with 57, bringing it even with Komeito.

Koike said she was considering offering Tomin First membership to six independents who won with its support, which could boost its total to 55.

Commenting on the historic win, Koike said, “I will take responsibility as a representative of the public … and want to commit to creating a reliable administration.”

The former environment minister denied having any intention to return to national politics but said she hoped to maintain good relations with members of other parties at the national level.

“Close cooperation between Tokyo and the central government is essential and in the best interest of Tokyo citizens” to ensure the success of the 2020 Olympic Games and successfully turn Tokyo into a global financial hub, Koike said.

She also vowed to improve transparency, particularly when it comes to the city’s preparations for the Olympics, which were hatched by the LDP.

Koike said she plans to review the budget with consideration for the challenges faced by Tokyo’s aging population, and to foster public engagement in governing through her private political school Kibo no Juku (School of Hope), which opened last fall.

She also explained plans to cooperate closely with other municipalities to address such issues as education, nursing care and child care support.

Now that the election is over, Koike said her focus will shift to hammering out the details of the plan for moving the Tsukiji fish market, and to preparations for the Olympics.

On Sunday, Koike criticized the LDP for having too much influence in the assembly, which she claimed had hindered reform.

Information from Kyodo added