Tokyo governor gets boost ahead of Japan polls

Cheryl Sanders
September 29, 2017

Japan's lower house was dissolved on Thursday ahead of an expected snap October 22 election being called by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, as he seeks to confirm his mandate in the face of a rising challenge from a popular new conservative party.

Koike, who served in top posts in the ruling party and its government before becoming Tokyo's governor, led her local party to a landslide victory in the July city assembly election, dealing Abe's Liberal Democratic Party a crushing defeat.

Tokyo governor gets boost ahead of Japan polls

Following the announcement, Mr Abe criticised what Japanese media has called a de facto merger between the main opposition and the new Kibo no To party, telling LDP members that they "cannot entrust the safety of Japan and the future of our children to a party that changes its banner just for the sake of an election". Seemingly signaling a willingness to dissolve the Democrats, he hinted at accelerating moves toward a dramatic realignment of opposition political forces in Japan.

She wants to freeze a planned rise in the national sales tax to 10 percent from 8 percent in 2019.

Her Party of Hope shares policy space with the business-friendly LDP, but Koike has staked out different stances on two issues likely to appeal to voters. Given Koike's charisma, she seems certain to draw considerable media attention in the period heading up to the October 22 contest.

A survey by the Mainichi newspaper showed 18 per cent of voters plan to vote for Ms Koike's party, compared to 29 per cent for LDP. These poll results point to the potential for Hope to attract a serious number of unaffiliated voters on election day. Wakasa began laying the groundwork for this earlier in the month with his launch of the Kishōjuku, a training program for new politicians, but given the election timeframe, these preparations are hardly sufficient to create a solid foundation for electoral success. "We should choose substance over apperance", Maehara said, calling on his colleagues to join Koike's campaign as candidates of Party of Hope.

Second is the question of what Koike plans to do.

Koike, at a news conference, denied speculation that she might run for parliament herself.

The third factor is the sort of interplay to be seen between the Party of Hope and other political forces on the national scene. She is a former cabinet minister and, after Mr Abe, the most prominent and popular politician in the country. And Koike stressed that her party will not take all DP candidates automatically.

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