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Tokyo Gov. Koike strikes out at Abe administration upon launch of national party

Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike is seen at a news conference to announce her new national political party, at the Tokyo Metropolitan Government building on Sept. 25, 2017. (Mainichi)

Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike stepped up her offensive against the administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Sept. 25 as she announced the establishment of the new national political party that she will lead.

"Japan is talking about reform while its presence is declining. Can we really leave things up to them?" Koike asked in a news conference marking the launch of her new party Kibo no To (Hope party).

The governor also criticized plans by a school operator overseen by a close friend of Abe to set up a new veterinary department in a national strategic special deregulation zone.

"There's no point in special zones while things are being done between friends," she said, adding that her new party would proceed without being constrained by past bonds.

In a television program on the evening of Sept. 25, she extended her attack to Abe's economic policy mix dubbed "Abenomics," saying, "Relying on monetary easing alone is a mistake." She added, "GDP is growing at a sluggish pace, but we can't actually feel the growth."

Regarding the constitutional change being sought by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, she said, "It feels very strange to me. It seems that constitutional amendment itself is turning into a goal."

On the topic of increasing the nation's consumption tax, Koike said she would prioritize the achievement of economic recovery that people could feel, and that the tax rate should be frozen in place until that time. She also criticized Abe's stated desire to change how consumption tax was put to use in line with a planned tax hike.

On Sept. 25, Koike also met in Tokyo with former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, under whom she previously served as environment minister. She has proposed as one of her policies the elimination of nuclear power plants, and in a TBS television program on the evening of Sept. 25, she disclosed that she had been spurred on with Koizumi telling her to do her best.

Koike's unique approach, which she also adopted in the Tokyo gubernatorial election, has been to portray the forces in power as the "enemy," and position her own party as a force for reform. During the gubernatorial election, the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) chapter in the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly became her target, and she avoided criticism of the Abe administration, but now that she has risen to lead a national party, she has turned to criticism of the Abe administration. It is believed that candidates standing for the new party will face off with many LDP candidates, mainly in electoral districts in the metropolitan sphere, meaning the level of antagonism between Koike and the LDP could go deeper.

Meanwhile, House of Representatives legislator Masaru Wakasa, who is close to Koike, has repeatedly stated that he cannot work with anyone who is opposed to revising the Constitution, and has drawn a line between himself and opposition parties that have stated their opposition to Abe's drive to revive the supreme law.

Former Minister of the Environment Goshi Hosono and some other legislators have taken the line of proposing a counteroffer to Abe's proposed constitutional changes. Abe is thus hoping to cooperate with them in revising the Constitution after the election. Koike's new party also plans to call, during its election campaign, for revision to the Constitution on such themes as local autonomy and a one-house parliament. In her news conference, she stated, "Discussion on the Constitution is inevitable."

However the members of the new party hail from a wide range of backgrounds, from Kyoko Nakayama, former leader of the Party for Japanese Kokoro, to those leaving the Democratic Party. The principles of the new party have thus become a bit hazy. Nakayama, in particular, has called for the establishment of a new Japanese-written Constitution. Some who have departed from the Democratic Party have expressed concerns that she is "too conservative."

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