Koike to vet DP refugees on key policies before laying out welcome mat


Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike, who this week founded a new political party, said Friday she will be selective in adding members from the moribund Democratic Party as candidates in next month’s Lower House election.

Koike and Democratic Party leader Seiji Maehara met in the morning after Maehara got consent from his party Thursday to effectively disband, letting its members run with the upstart Kibo no To (Party of Hope), her new party, to mount a hasty but unified challenge to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his ruling Liberal Democratic Party in the Oct. 22 election.

Koike said after the meeting that she received a list of members in the unpopular opposition party who want to join Kibo no To but has “no intention of taking them all on.”

“I want to narrow it down from various standpoints, like how well they can fit in with our policies,” Koike said.

While the influx of candidates will allow the upstart party to compete in more electoral districts nationwide, Koike is likely wary of the DP’s sizable liberal wing and baggage from its turbulent first time in power as the Democratic Party of Japan, a three-year stint that ended in 2012.

Kibo no To founding member Goshi Hosono, formerly of the DP, said Thursday that new entrants will be required to share a “realistic” national security stance and a desire to amend the Constitution.

He said it “would be tough” to welcome anyone in favor of scrapping the divisive security laws recently enacted by the Abe administration to expand the types of missions the pacifist Self-Defense Forces can perform overseas.

With little time to sort out the list before official campaigning starts on Oct. 10, “the important point is that we fight together in this coming election as allies,” Koike said.

Maehara told reporters afterward that he and Koike agreed to “coordinate with each other to aim for a change of government.”

Hosono said Thursday he wants “those with experience leading one of the three branches of government” — including former Prime Ministers Naoto Kan and Yoshihiko Noda — to refrain from joining the new party.

Koike denied Friday that this was already policy. “It’s one way of thinking, but I want to move forward comprehensively,” she said.

She also denied she has any intention of resigning as governor to run in the election. Koike was a member of Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party before her surprising run for governor last year. “I won’t run. I’ve been saying this since before,” Koike said.

The Abe administration’s top spokesman spoke dismissively Friday of the Koike-Maehara alliance, saying their parties have “completely different” views on national security and a planned consumption tax hike.

“I think the fact that they’ve become a single party in just one night, without any discussion of policy, shows that they’re just trying to get the numbers together for the election,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told a news conference.

Abe dissolved the House of Representatives on Thursday for an election he claimed was about fiscal policy and handling North Korea but appears timed to catch the opposition unprepared and ensure his political survival after a bout of scandals.

Trade minister Hiroshige Seko on Friday criticized Koike’s election-run denial, saying she “needs to properly come out into national politics and make clear that (her party) will designate her as preferred prime minister.”

Koike said she will hold a meeting Saturday with Osaka Gov. Ichiro Matsui and Aichi Gov. Hideaki Omura, who governs the area around Nagoya. The Japan Innovation Party, led by Matsui, shares common policies with Koike’s party, including opposition to the tax hike. But Matsui has warned that coordination would be “impossible” if the entire DP is absorbed by Kibo no To.

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