First no Kai, the new political party set up Sunday by regional party Tomin First no Kai (Tokyoites First) with the aim of securing seats in the Diet, is set to work on gaining influence in national politics.
"We've been frustrated to see the voices of Tokyo residents not reaching the national political world," Tomin First leader Chiharu Araki said during a news conference Sunday. Of the five major groups in the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly, Tomin First, linked to Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike, is the only one without a seat in the Diet.
Following the launch of the new party, some in the ruling and opposition parties in national politics are cautious about moves that Koike, special adviser to Tomin First, may take in the lead-up to this autumn's election for the House of Representatives, the all-important lower chamber of the Diet.
At the news conference, Araki criticized the national government over its response to the novel coronavirus crisis, saying, "Even though local governments ask the state for the declaration of a state of emergency, the central government is slow to act and countermeasures are not implemented quickly as a result."
The central government does not want to lose its control over finances or transfer its authority to local governments, she said. "If we continue limiting our activities to politics in Tokyo, we would be unable to carve out a future for Tokyo and elsewhere in the country," Araki said, explaining the reason for establishing the new party.
First no Kai, which labels itself as a conservative centrist party, apparently hopes to attract support from voters critical of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, the main opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan and other parties.
The new party is believed to be in behind-the-scenes talks for cooperation with some lawmakers in the major opposition Democratic Party for the People and independent Diet members.
Attention is being paid to how and to what extent Koike will be involved in First no Kai toward the next Lower House general election.
Araki denied the possibility of Koike running in the Lower House poll on the ticket of First no Kai. "We didn't even ask (Koike) to run (in the election)," Araki said.
But Araki said that the name of the new party was decided through talks with Koike, showing her hope for cooperation with the Tokyo governor.
If First no Kai puts up a certain number of candidates in the general election and obtains support from Koike, who has high name recognition, the new party may have an impact on the election, political analysts said.
A metropolitan assembly member of the LDP sounded cautious, saying, "I'm sure that Governor Koike will move to support First no Kai candidates in their campaigning."
"I expect (Koike) aims to return to national politics by running in the Lower House election after the upcoming general election," the LDP member added.
A source in the CDP also voiced caution about the possibility of First no Kai luring voters critical of the LDP, saying, "We may lose some votes from people opposing the LDP mainly in the Tokyo metropolitan area."
Koike entered national politics in 1992 by winning a House of Councilors seat in the election for the upper chamber of the Diet in July that year. She switched to the Lower House the following year and served as a member of the lower chamber until 2016.
Koike was elected Tokyo governor in July 2016, becoming the first female leader of the Japanese capital. She won re-election in July 2020.
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