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Koike remains ambiguous about which party to align with after election

Tokyo Gov. and Kibo no To leader Yuriko Koike (Mainichi)

Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike, leader of the fledgling national party Kibo no To (party of hope), slammed the ruling coalition led by the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) for its policy measures while underlining her party's amicable relationship with the LDP's coalition partner Komeito, during an interview with the Mainichi Shimbun on Oct. 2.

Her party apparently aims to leave a free hand over which parties it will be aligned with after the upcoming House of Representatives election. On Sept. 30, Kibo no To reached an agreement with the opposition Nippon Ishin (Japan Innovation Party) that they will not pit their respective candidates against each other in constituencies in Tokyo and Osaka.

Koike lambasted Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's recent proposal that a portion of the extra revenue from the consumption tax hike from the current 8 percent to 10 percent scheduled for October 2019 be spent on child-rearing support and other measures rather than national debt repayments as originally planned.

"The prime minister has dissolved the lower house out of his desire to do so at this point of time, and brought up the reason for the dissolution afterwards," Koike said during the interview in Tokyo.

"Considering the way the LDP and Komeito decide on their policy measures nowadays, and their slackness, there is no way we will cooperate with them," Koike said, denying the possibility of any post-election cooperation with the two parties.

However, Koike insisted that the collaborative ties between Tomin First no Kai (Tokyoites First party), which she once led, and Komeito in the Tokyo metropolitan administration will be "unwavering," and suggested that Kibo no To may not field its candidates in single-seat constituencies where Komeito candidates are running in the Oct. 22 general election. "You'll see if you look at constituencies," she said.

On Oct. 2, Osaka Gov. Ichiro Matsui, who heads the JIP, hinted at the possibility of cooperating with the LDP after the general election. A source close to the LDP said, "It may be uncertain which parties would collaborate with each other after the lower house race." Matsui had earlier agreed with Koike that their parties would promote decentralization of power and other measures.

Koike said during the interview that her party will aim for a single-party majority in the lower house by winning at least 233 seats -- just over half the chamber's 465 seats -- in the general election.

"We are aspiring to take the helm of the government in the upcoming election. We will start with a single-party administration," Koike said.

Asked if her party will form a coalition with other parties after the election in case it failed to win a single-party majority, she said, "I'm not thinking about that."

The hastily launched Kibo no To, however, is apparently underprepared for the general election in terms of a policy platform. While Koike advocated a freeze on the consumption tax rate, saying, "The sales tax raise is dubious and we should think twice," she stopped short of elaborating on alternative revenue sources to cover the country's snowballing social security costs.

As for government efforts to restore Japan's fiscal health, Koike said her party will review "wasteful" public works projects and "such a great number" of Diet seats. "The moderate fine tuning that has been promoted by the LDP and Komeito would no longer be effective enough to help this country survive. So I will carry out a drastic review without any constraints."

With regard to a policy to break away from nuclear power, Koike said that her party will set forth a road map to achieve that goal. "Japan can contribute to the world by securing proper technology for decommissioning reactors," she said.

Koike reiterated that she will not run in the general election herself, insisting that there are many other members within her party who would deserve Diet nomination for prime minister after the election.

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