National / Politics

Two Tomin First members quit over Yuriko Koike’s leadership style

by Reiji Yoshida

Staff Writer

Two founding members of Tomin First no Kai (Tokyoites First), a regional party effectively led by Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike, plan to abandon the party on Thursday citing frustrations over the closed nature of top management, sources said.

Shun Otokita and Reiko Ueda, both members of the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly, are among the three key assembly members who first supported Koike when she entered the office in August last year.

Otokita had served as secretary-general of the party and was once considered one of Koike’s closest allies.

The departures will deal a blow to Koike, who has often been criticized for her lack of communication with rank-and-file members of Tomin First, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government and even Kibo no To (Party of Hope), a national party she launched last week ahead of the Oct. 22 Lower House election.

Otokita wrote on his blog Wednesday that he is considering leaving the party partly because he has been frustrated by Koike’s recent political maneuvering, including her decision to engage in national politics.

“Our activities at the assembly have been heavily restricted (by the party leadership). That’s the biggest reason for me” to leave the party, Ueda told The Japan Times by phone on Wednesday.

Ueda said the two will hold a news conference Thursday to announce their departure.

The party’s executives have banned members from submitting written questions to the Tokyo Metropolitan Government or even giving interviews to the media without permission, according to Ueda.

Ueda added that she is not sure whether Koike, who now serves as the top adviser to the party, has been directly involved in those decisions by party executives.

Koike has been criticized for what could be described as a dictatorial management style.

She officially served as Tomin First president during the assembly election campaign in July but suddenly resigned as party head right after the vote.

Her successor Kazusa Noda stepped down on Sept. 11 and was replaced by assembly member Chiharu Araki. The change was reportedly decided by three top party leaders, including Koike, while other members were notified by email after the fact. Otokita has criticized the process for failing to gain a consensus of members.