FUJIMINO, SAITAMA PREF. – In another blow for Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike’s Kibo no To (Party of Hope), more than half of the Democratic Party’s 47 Upper House members have ruled out joining the upstart party after the Oct. 22 Lower House poll, the DP’s Upper House caucus chief said Friday.
Toshio Ogawa, speaking to reporters in Fujimino, Saitama Prefecture, said that he has already contacted many caucus members and found that over half of the 47 are not interested in changing sides and joining Kibo no To.
DP President Seiji Maehara, who effectively disbanded the party’s Lower House caucus last month, delivered an ultimatum to Diet members in the chamber to link up with Kibo no To or run on an independent ticket. He also urged Upper House members to eventually join Kibo no To after the Oct. 22 vote.
Ogawa, however, noted that Maehara’s direction to Upper House members cannot be taken as the party’s formal decision because it has not been endorsed by any of the party’s decision-making bodies.
“At the Sept. 28 general meeting of both Lower and Upper House members, we simply decided how we will fight through the Lower House election,” Ogawa said. “We haven’t decided or even discussed whether the party should be disbanded or all the members should join” Kibo no To.
Ogawa added that Maehara’s suggestion is “merely what Mr. Maehara wishes for.”
Ogawa’s comments came in the wake of opinion polls by several major media that showed the ruling bloc led by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is likely to win a landslide victory in the upcoming election.
The Liberal Democratic Party-Komeito coalition could win nearly 300 seats in the 465-seat Lower House, with Kibo no To losing steam and winning only around 60 seats, according to those polls.
The predictions have left DP candidates who bolted to join Kibo no To deeply disappointed after staking their own survival on the apparent popularity of Koike.
Ogawa said he hopes Lower House members who were in essence forced to leave the party — including those now running on the Kibo no To ticket — will rejoin after the Oct. 22 poll.
Ogawa traveled to Fujimino to deliver a stump speech for Yasuko Komiyama, a former DP member and current Kibo no To candidate.
In her own speech, which lasted about 11 minutes, Komiyama did not mention Koike’s name at all, instead expressing her hope that former DP members, including herself, could “gather together again” after the Oct. 22 election.
Speaking to reporters after Komiyama’s speech, Ogawa said he believes that Maehara will leave the DP because he is the person who originally proposed that all Lower House members join Kibo no To. A new party president should then be chosen via a presidential election, he added.
Maehara, a Lower House member before the chamber was dissolved, has not given up his DP membership but is running as an independent.