By Keigo Sakai and Chie Morifuji / Yomiuri Shimbun Staff WritersTokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike, who leads Kibo no To (Party of Hope), sought to involve the leaders of other major metropolitan areas in showing off her “reform posture” ahead of the House of Representatives election by meeting with her counterparts in Osaka and Aichi prefectures, observers said.
The meeting with Osaka Gov. and Nippon Ishin no Kai leader Ichiro Matsui and Aichi Gov. Hideaki Omura was held on Saturday.
Koike’s moves are worrying the Liberal Democratic Party, as she has sought closer ties with Ishin, which has a good relationship with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
Koike has even sent signals to Komeito about coordinating over candidates.
“By working together, we can make progress on reforms,” Koike said at a press conference Saturday, with the other two governors by her side.
The three governors’ appeal to a reform posture was intended “to help us in the major metropolitan areas of Tokyo, Osaka and Aichi, where there are a lot of unaffiliated voters,” a source with ties to Kibo said.
Nevertheless, some in the ruling parties see Koike’s sudden announcement that she would lead a national party, and her “screening strategy” for recently incumbent Democratic Party lower house members as little more than “Koike-style performances.”
Before the meeting, there was a speculation that Koike would probably “inquire if Matsui and Omura were interested in running,” with her own possible candidacy in mind. Yet Matsui rejected this at the press conference afterward, saying it was “inconceivable” that all three would run.
Avoid double defeat
Koike’s biggest achievement from Saturday’s meeting was making progress on coordinating with Ishin over electoral constituencies.
Koike had in the past contacted Matsui about possible electoral cooperation. The regional party Koike leads, Tomin First no Kai, won a major victory in July’s Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly election.
However, Kibo’s strength outside Tokyo is an unknown quantity. Ishin has performed well in the Kansai region, but if Kibo and Ishin were to both field candidates in a large number of constituencies, there is a risk that both could lose.
With that in mind, establishing a division that “Tokyo is Kibo’s and Osaka is Ishin’s” is highly significant.
On Saturday, Ishin announced it would field candidates in 15 of Osaka Prefecture’s 19 constituencies, leaving out the four constituencies held by recently incumbent Komeito lawmakers.
Ishin had been expected to name candidates for multiple constituencies in Tokyo in its initial list of official candidates, but no such announcement was made that day.
“That was a message asking Kibo to not field candidates in Osaka in exchange for not doing so in Tokyo,” a source with ties to Ishin said.
Yet Ishin and Tomin First previously faced off in the metropolitan assembly election, so full cooperation between the parties is unlikely.
Toranosuke Katayama, Ishin’s co-leader, said at a party meeting Saturday that the relationship with Kibo would be “strategic and mutually beneficial.”