• Kyodo, Staff Report


Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike’s new national party, increasingly seen as representing a challenge to the ruling coalition, is unlikely to win enough seats in the Oct. 22 general election to seize power, a top party official said Sunday.

Masaru Wakasa, a founding member of Kibo no To (Party of Hope), also said Koike is not expected to quit her post as governor and run for a Lower House seat herself “as long as she is looking to secure enough seats to put us in a position to take power in the next election” after this one.

The former prosecutor also said Kibo no To may not be able to field the 233 candidates needed to capture a simple majority in the 465-seat Lower House.

Wakasa repeated the party’s position that those seeking to join from the shattered Democratic Party must share Kibo no To’s pro-security stance to run on the new party’s ticket.

The DP has called for scrapping the divisive, heavily protested security laws that took effect last year.

Kibo no To will announce candidates in stages. The official campaign period starts on Oct. 10. All 465 seats in the lower chamber — reduced from 475 for this election — are up for grabs. The conservative Liberal Democratic Party and Komeito, its coalition partner, together hold over 300 of the seats.

Politicians are meanwhile rushing to prepare their campaigns and exploring ways to combine forces against the LDP-led coalition headed by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

On Saturday in Osaka, Koike and Osaka Gov. Ichiro Matsui agreed that Kibo no To and his Nippon Ishin no Kai will not challenge each other in single-seat districts in their cities for the snap election.

The agreement in the two megalopolises came during talks that also included Aichi Gov. Hideaki Omura. The three governors agreed to broad cooperation on decentralization, local revitalization and support for seriously tackling political reform before the planned consumption tax hike to 10 percent in Oct. 2019.

“We’re not going to stand candidates in Osaka, and we’ll compartmentalize candidates with Nippon Ishin in Tokyo and Osaka,” Koike said.

Kibo no To has much in common with Matsui’s Nippon Ishin no Kai. Members of both parties share conservative, sometimes right-wing, views on issues and strongly support Japan’s military alliance with the United States. The Aichi governor has provided backing to Matsui on some issues in the past, as well as to previous Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto, who cofounded the Nippon Ishin movement with Matsui.

“There are many policy areas where Kibo no To and Nippon Ishin overlap. But we’re not the Democratic Party and we’re not going to merge with Kibo no To,” Matsui said.

He added that while Nippon Ishin will not challenge Kibo no To in single-seat districts, they would fight for proportional representation votes.

On Saturday, Nippon Ishin released its campaign platform, which included support for a freeze on raising the consumption tax to 10 percent from 8 percent.

There was also an agreement on energy. Despite Koike’s favoring of nuclear power in the past, the language from Saturday’s three-governor agreement spoke of a “fade out” from nuclear power, the exact phrase that Nippon Ishin has used, and a switch to non-fossil fuels and renewable energy. Koike had said last week her new party was considering a zero nuclear power policy.

No timeline for the fade-out or switch was given.

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