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Democratic Party defector Hosono, Tokyo governor ally Wakasa set to launch new party

Goshi Hosono (Mainichi)
Masaru Wakasa (Mainichi)

A defector from the largest opposition Democratic Party (DP), a legislator close to Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike and others are poised to launch a new political party as early as Sept. 26, sources close to them said.

Former Environment Minister Goshi Hosono, who left the DP in August, and Masaru Wakasa, a House of Representatives member and close ally to Koike, among others are expected to notify the internal affairs minister via the Tokyo Metropolitan Election Administration Commission on Sept. 26 that they will form a new party. They will likely announce their decision at a news conference as early as that day.

The party will appeal to the public that they are aiming to form a new bloc in the Diet that can counter the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and the DP.

Hosono and Wakasa held talks in the Diet Building on Sept. 21 on a platform that their new party will adopt. They are aiming to field over 100 candidates in the House of Representatives election that is expected to be called in October. They are reportedly asking at least one member of the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly member belonging to Tomin First no Kai (Tokyoites First), a local party effectively led by Koike, if they are willing to run in the upcoming general election.

A focal point is who will lead the new party. Legislators who intend to join the party are urging Koike to become its leader as they fear they cannot win the election unless the popular Tokyo governor is brought to the fore as a symbol of the party during the election campaign. "We have no choice but to name Ms. Koike as our leader," one of the legislators who will join the new party said.

However, Wakasa voiced opposition to appointing Koike as leader of the new party during an interview with the Mainichi Shimbun, citing Nippon Ishin led by Osaka Gov. Ichiro Matsui as an example of a national party led by a local politician.

"Nippon Ishin is inextricably linked to a local party (the Osaka Restoration Association), but we consider the new party separately (from Tomin First no Kai)," he said.

Koike denied that she had been asked to become leader of the new party.

Natsuo Yamaguchi, leader of the LDP's junior coalition partner Komeito that cooperated with Tomin First no Kai in the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly election this past July, warned Koike not to assume the leadership of the new party.

"We'd like Gov. Koike to fulfill her duties as governor," he told a news conference on Sept. 21.

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