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Koike's 'hope' party losing momentum after backlash over 'elimination' comment

Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike, who heads the Party of Hope, greets voters in Tokyo's Taito Ward on Oct. 12, 2017. (Mainichi)

Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike is scrambling to win support for her new Party of Hope in the upcoming general election as the latest Kyodo News poll showed it losing its initial post-launch momentum.

"This election is a tough race!" said Koike on Oct. 11 in her speech on the streets of Nasushiobara, Tochigi Prefecture. She added, "We didn't have much time to prepare."

A change in the current came when Koike said her party, the Party of Hope, was going to "eliminate" some members of the main opposition Democratic Party (DP) upon their effective merger. Her move to filter DP legislators gave the public the impression that opposition parties were caught in the chaos of party politics. One of the candidates running on the Party of Hope ticket told the Mainichi Shimbun, "That (when Koike said she was going to eliminate DP members) was the turning point and the atmosphere changed."

Since the premise of the party is Koike herself, the strength of the party also depends on her actions and comments. Referring to their leader, a senior party official self-deprecatingly said, "It used to be turbulence up in the air, but now the wind is blowing on the ground."

The party's unexpected sluggish growth in support is already causing disharmony within the group. A source related to the Party of Hope expressed dissatisfaction with the operation of the new opposition force, saying, "There are many candidates (that the party is endorsing) I don't even know where they're from. Those who are close to Ms. Koike have become too much of a priority."

Goshi Hosono, a former DP legislator and one of the founding members of the Party of Hope, shrugged off criticism against the party. "We have been receiving this much negativity because people are interested in our party. There is a great possibility of the party emerging (in opinion polls) if we can properly respond to voters' expectations," he said, though looking grim.

Another newly launched party, the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan (CDP), on the other hand, is steadily gaining momentum. Party leader Yukio Edano told reporters in the Chiba Prefecture city of Urayasu that the group is receiving positive feedback that was "unthinkable until now."

At the same time, the CDP's momentum has not expanded enough to stall the ruling coalition of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and Komeito, and some are voicing disappointment over the split of opposition forces.

A senior member of the Japanese Communist Party (JCP), which has agreed to form a united front with the CDP and other liberal forces, said, "We can't overturn forces in constituencies where the LDP and Komeito are cooperating closely when opposition forces are split."

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