Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike’s party kicked off a key race Wednesday to choose its co-head, with the emerging victor certain to face a bumpy road as Kibo no To (Party of Hope) struggles to maintain its relevance following a dismal election showing last month.

Former Democratic Party lawmakers Yuichiro Tamaki and Hiroshi Ogushi are vying for the top party spot to serve alongside Koike in the election scheduled for Friday.

Often touted as a young hopeful, Tamaki ran unsuccessfully for presidency of the DP last year, while Ogushi rose to prominence after serving as policy chief under the party’s previous leadership headed by Renho.

Whoever gets elected will represent Kibo no To in the Diet.

Despite the initial hype fueled by Koike’s charisma, Kibo no To ended up winning an underwhelming 50 seats in the 465-member Lower House in the Oct. 22 vote, losing big to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s ruling coalition, which won a two-thirds supermajority.

The party’s “utter defeat” in the poll, as Koike herself put it, prompted her to announce that she will for now withdraw from intraparty management and instead focus on her responsibilities as governor of Tokyo.

In declaring his bid for the race, Tamaki said he wants to refurbish Kibo no To as a viable opposition that — based on its identity as a “tolerant conservative party” — can wrench power from the ruling bloc. Ogushi, too, stressed his commitment to ending the Abe administration, which he accused of “titling to the right too much.”

The difference between the two candidates was most evident in the extent to which they said they were willing to cooperate with other opposition parties — most notably the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, which now controls the largest number of seats in the Lower House among opposition parties.

In order to better counter the ruling bloc, Ogushi said Kibo no To “needs to be serious about maximizing cooperation with other opposition parties sharing the same goal as ours,” going so far as to confirm his wish to form a parliamentary group with the CDP.

Tamaki, meanwhile, said that while he recognizes the need for opposition parties to cooperate, he feels strongly about clarifying Kibo no To’s own “identity, position and color” first before joining forces with other groups.

To a lesser extent, the two also differ on whether to revise the pacifist Constitution and uphold Abe’s contentious security laws that the DP once blasted as unconstitutional.

Ogushi unequivocally dismissed as “unnecessary” the idea of amending the war-renouncing Article 9, which he argued has played a pivotal role in maintaining Japan’s post-war pacifist mentality. Tamaki was more nuanced, saying revising the clause could be a longtime focus of debate, if not an immediate priority.

Likewise, Ogushi slammed as “unacceptable” the security laws that significantly expanded the legal scope of overseas operations of the Self-Defense Forces, while Tamaki said he is only partially against the same laws, and that seeking to scrap them altogether is not “realistic.”

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