Tokyo governor quits as head of conservative opposition ‘Party of Hope’

TOKYO (Reuters) – The governor of the Japanese capital, Tokyo, whose opposition “Party of Hope” came a distant third to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s ruling party in a general election last month, said on Tuesday she would quit as party co-leader.

FILE PHOTO: Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike unveils her new party name ‘Party of Hope’ during a news conference at Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building in Tokyo, Japan September 25, 2017. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon/File Photo

Governor Yuriko Koike, a former ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) lawmaker sometimes mentioned as a possible first female Japanese premier, launched the party to great fanfare ahead of the Oct. 22 lower house election and absorbed a big chunk of the failed opposition Democratic Party.

But despite her bid to create what she called a “reformist, conservative” rival to Abe’s LDP, Koike’s party won only 51 seats in the 465-member lower house.

That tally was not only dwarfed by the LDP’s 283 seats but also lagged the 54 seats taken by the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan (CDPJ), a group hastily formed by liberal-leaning former Democratic Party members.

Koike announced her decision at a televised meeting of her party legislators, also attended by Yuichiro Tamaki, who was recently elected as Party of Hope co-president.

“I want to step down as party leader and support you all,” she told the meeting.

“I want to leave things to President Tamaki.”

Head of Japan’s Party of Hope and Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike speaks to voters on the last day of campaigning for the October 22 lower house election, in Tokyo, Japan October 21, 2017. REUTERS/Issei Kato

A media-savvy former TV announcer and veteran lawmaker who served as environment and defense minister, Koike defied the LDP to run for Tokyo governor last year and trounced her ruling-party rival.

She then led her party to a historic victory over the LDP in a July Tokyo assembly poll.

But support for the Party of Hope faltered after Koike said she would “exclude” liberal members of the Democratic Party and decided not to seek a seat in parliament herself.

She also confused many voters by seeming to leave open the possibility of a tie-up with the LDP after the general election.

Support for the Party of Hope was a mere 3.2 percent against 9.3 percent for the CDPJ and 37.1 percent for the LDP, in an NHK survey released on Monday.

Abe has had a bounce in his ratings, a series of public opinion polls published this week…

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