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DP defector and ally of Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike to form new party

Kyodo

A defector from the Democratic Party and an ally of popular Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike have reached a broad agreement to launch a new party by Sept. 28, when the Diet will open an extraordinary session, according to sources.

There is speculation that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will dissolve the Lower House early in the extraordinary session.

Former Environment Minister Goshi Hosono, a Lower House lawmaker who left the Democratic Party in August, and Masaru Wakasa, an independent Lower House member, have decided to coordinate their policies, such as on constitutional revision, and form a party by then, the sources said Monday.

Hosono reportedly said that the new party will try to attract more defectors and gradually increase its numbers.

The Democratic Party has seen a string of defections recently following a change of leadership and amid speculation it could face a powerful competitor from a new national-level political force connected to Koike. Her Tomin First no Kai (Tokyoites First) party and allies scored a sweeping victory in the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly election in July.

Three Lower House lawmakers close to Hosono are potential members of the new party, the sources said. They are Hirofumi Ryu, Yuichi Goto and Yoshihiro Suzuki, who all tendered their resignations this month.

A new political party will become eligible for government funding if it has at least five Diet members.

Wakasa defected from Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party to support Koike and now heads a new political group called Nippon First no Kai.

Akihisa Nagashima, a former senior vice defense minister who was expelled from the Democratic Party, and Takeshi Noma, a Lower House member from the now-defunct Kokumin Shinto (People’s New Party), are also considering joining the planned party led by Hosono and Wakasa, the sources said.