Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike, also the head of Kibo no To (Party of Hope), said Wednesday she will distance herself from national politics and that her party’s Diet members will handle parliamentary affairs, including the nomination of top executives within the Diet caucus of the nation’s second-largest opposition force.
Koike, who had just returned from a trip to Paris in the capacity of Tokyo governor, met party members who survived Sunday’s Lower House election. After the meeting, Koike said she will not resign as party president, saying she bears “responsibility as the founder of the party.”
Wednesday’s meeting continued for more than three hours. Some party members called for Koike’s resignation, but others encouraged her to stay, according to Koike.
As for who party members will select when the Diet votes for a new prime minister, Koike said the party will make a decision after Diet members select their top executives.
Kibo no To, once considered a powerful challenger to the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, fielded 235 candidates and set its sights on winning more than half of the 465-seat chamber. But the party won only 50 seats, falling behind the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan.
Koike launched Kibo no To on Sept. 25, and the party then absorbed dozens of lawmakers from the Democratic Party, the largest opposition force at the time. The DP members hoped to ride on Koike’s coattails, as she was thought to be immensely popular among voters.
Before the election, many voters regarded Koike as a fresh challenger to powerful establishment politicians, in particular the LDP led by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
But as Koike said she would “exclude” liberal DP members from her upstart party, sentiment turned against the governor, with some seeing her as yet another player engaging in power games. Shedding her image as an underdog, Koike ended up losing much of her popularity.
Many liberal DP members instead joined the CDP and successfully won seats. This has also fueled criticism against Koike and Seiji Maehara, the DP president who decided to effectively disband the party’s Lower House caucus and forced many DP members to flock to Kibo no To.
Speculation has circulated that ex-DP members of Kibo no To will eventually leave the party and try to join the CDP, which is led by former DP heavyweight Yukio Edano.
But Edano has said the party will not engage in number games in the Diet, saying the party would otherwise quickly lose support from voters who have been fed up with mergers and alliance shifts without coordination on policy.
Meanwhile, Kibo no To has been harshly criticized for failing to come up with any concrete policy measures. This was likely another factor in Koike’s quick loss of momentum even before Sunday’s election.