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Hosono hints ex-prime ministers Kan, Noda should not join Koike's new party

Goshi Hosono enters the House of Representatives chamber ahead of a plenary session of the Diet on Sept. 28, 2017. (Mainichi)

Former Environment Minister Goshi Hosono, who defected from the largest opposition Democratic Party (DP) to join a new national party founded by Tokyo's governor, suggested on Sept. 28 that former prime ministers Naoto Kan and Yoshihiko Noda should not follow his footsteps.

Hosono, who will stand as a candidate for Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike's new party Kibo no To (Party of Hope) in the upcoming House of Representatives election, made the comment during a satellite news program the same day.

"Those who served as head of three branches of power should refrain (from joining Kibo no To)," he said. Hosono formerly served as environment minister in the Noda Cabinet and his comment stood out as a flat-out rejection of his former boss, who had praised Koike the same day for "having a good game intuition."

In response, DP leader Seiji Maehara criticized Hosono on a Fuji Television Network program, saying, "Mr. Hosono is a future leader. I want him to be more tolerant." He also told reporters that the notion of rejecting former prime ministers did not come up in a meeting with Koike.

Koike suggested during a news conference on Sept. 28 that her party is ready to back as many lawmakers belonging to the DP as possible in the general election, but said they "cannot be anybody," indicating that some DP members will be eliminated from the new party's endorsement list.

"We are backing as many candidates as possible," Koike told a news conference at the Japan National Press Club, as her party and the DP began negotiations on Sept. 28 over the selection of candidates for the general election in October.

At the time of the lower house dissolution, the DP had 87 members in the chamber, and a total of 82 incumbents, including the former prime ministers, are set to run in the general election. At the outset, the party was set to endorse 46 former Diet members and 91 rookies as candidates on its official ticket.

Kibo no To, on the other hand, has been hastily working to field over 100 candidates, but in order to make selection of a government the main issue of the upcoming election, the recently launched party needs more candidates than the number that could form a majority in the lower house. While the number of Kibo candidates will surge if the new party accepts DP members, it will likely face criticism for being a "secondhand DP" or "a mutual aid party" just to win the election. The Kibo party is therefore trying to water down its DP colors by excluding symbolic figures from the struggling party -- as well as using issues such as constitutional amendment and security-related laws as a testing ground to see which DP members can work hand in hand with Kibo's ideology.

Candidates are not all the new party wants from the DP -- it also seeks support from the DP's regional organizations and its financial power. To gain support from groups related to the Japanese Trade Union Confederation (Rengo), which can help candidates at numerous stages including in the placement of campaign posters, Koike's party is expected to welcome most DP members.

Maehara said during a general meeting of DP members from both house of the Diet on Sept. 28 that joining forces with the Kibo party is not about "eliminating certain people." It is inevitable, however, that some of them will be rejected as examples of the new party's stance on the merger.

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