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Party of Hope refuses to endorse about half of DP's intended election candidates

The Party of Hope's Masaru Wakasa, center, flanked on the left by Koichiro Genba, deputy head of the opposition Democratic Party election strategy task force, and on the right by Party of Hope member Goshi Hoshino, are seen at a news conference on Oct. 3, 2017. (Mainichi)

The Party of Hope, a new national party led by Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike, has refused to endorse roughly half of about 210 individuals whom the largest opposition Democratic Party (DP) had intended to field in the upcoming general election, it was learned from a list of the new party's first tranche of candidates released on Oct. 3.

Instead, the Party of Hope is prioritizing candidates it has secured on its own in many single-seat constituencies over those belonging to the DP, which has decided to disband itself and effectively merge into the new party.

The Party of Hope is poised to subsequently announce its second and thirds tranches with the goal of fielding at least 233 candidates, over half of the 465 seats in the lower chamber.

"I held negotiations with the Party of Hope with a desire for as many of our members to be endorsed by the party as possible," Koichiro Genba, deputy head of the DP's election strategy task force, said. Genba thus asked for DP members' understanding of the decision.

Among the list of 191 candidates set to run on the Party of Hope ticket in single-seat constituencies, 109 had originally intended to run for the DP. However, the Party of Hope has decided to field non-DP members in 48 of the constituencies where the DP had been set to endorse candidates.

Still, the list of candidates shows that the Party of Hope does not necessarily have strong influence in all regions across the country.

The Party of Hope has decided to field its own candidates in 21 of Tokyo's 25 constituencies at the urging of Koike, who also serves as Tokyo governor.

In the metropolitan area including Kanagawa and Chiba prefectures, Koike took the initiative in her party's selection of candidates.

In Nagano, Ishikawa and some other prefectures, those who had intended to run on the DP ticket won endorsement from the Party of Hope. Moreover, the new party has decided to endorse former senior vice minister of agriculture Takashi Shinohara in the Nagano No. 1 constituency even though it had initially intended to refuse to back him.

These moves show that the DP has a bigger say in selecting candidates in regional areas because of its accumulation of human resources and organized support.

In particular, the Party of Hope has far less influence in areas where the DP had closely cooperated with the Japanese Communist Party and Social Democratic Party in elections since the House of Councillors poll last year.

Of four candidates in Hokkaido who were DP lower house members until Prime Minister Shinzo Abe dissolved the chamber on Sept. 28, only Kenko Matsuki in the No. 2 constituency has joined the Party of Hope.

Takahiro Kuroiwa, who seeks re-election in the Niigata No. 3 district, had announced at the end of September that he would join Koike's new party, but retracted his decision due mainly to opposition from his supporters.

The Party of Hope had not decided to field any candidates in Niigata Prefecture by the time it announced its first tranche of candidates.

The list of Party of Hope candidates highlights its confrontational approach to the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, a new party founded by members of the DP's liberal wing.

Nearly 50 former lower house members and first-time candidates have announced their intention to join the new liberal party.

The Party of Hope will field candidates against about half of those who will run on the ticket of the Constitutional Democratic Party, including former Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano, former Prime Minister Naoto Kan and former Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Hirotaka Akamatsu.

Goshi Hosono, a former key member of the DP who played a role in the launch of Koike's new party, pointed out that there was a wide gap in views over security policy between those who will run on the ticket of the Party of Hope and those who will join or have joined the Constitutional Democratic Party.

"It's heartbreaking to fight against those who were our comrades. However, policy differences could affect the fundamentals of political parties. We have no choice but to fight fair," Hosono said.

The Party of Hope is taking a particularly confrontational attitude toward former Health, Labor and Welfare Minister Akira Nagatsuma, who will run in the Tokyo No. 7 constituency.

Masaru Wakasa, a key member of Koike's new force, had initially proposed to Genba that the Party of Hope would field its candidates in all Tokyo constituencies except No. 7, so Nagatsuma could join the party after the election.

However, the Party of Hope changed its stance after Nagatsuma chose to join the Constitutional Democratic Party, and decided to field a former Kumamoto Prefectural Assembly member who had initially intended to run in the Kumamoto No. 2 constituency, against Nagatsuma in the Tokyo No. 7 district.

Edano, leader of the Constitutional Democratic Party, expressed concerns about the outcome of the general election during a street speech in Tokyo on Oct. 3. "We must fight in the election on the ticket of our newborn party. I'm even worried about my own seat," he said.

After the speech, however, Edano said, "Each party has its own strategy," and "I'll be all right if I win in the single-seat constituency."

The Party of Hope has shown some consideration to DP members who have chosen to run in single-seat constituencies as independents.

By the time Koike's new party announced its first batch of candidates, it had not selected any individuals to run against former Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda, former DP President Katsuya Okada and former Finance Minister Jun Azumi.

The Party of Hope apparently hopes that these politicians will join it after the election.

DP leader Seiji Maehara said he will support both DP members who will run on the ticket of the Party of Hope and those who will run as independents.

"We had hoped that we could continue to work with all our party members, but an election is a battle. I'll work hard so that all Party of Hope candidates and independents who will likely join the new party later can win the election," he said.

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