Shinzo Abe

Abe cabinet member defecting to join new opposition party

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 24 September, 2017, 8:35pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 24 September, 2017, 9:42pm

A senior vice-minister in Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government, Mineyuki Fukuda, said on Sunday he will leave the ruling bloc to join a new party being organised by allies of Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike.

Kyoko Nakayama, leader of the small opposition Party for Japanese Kokoro, also met Koike the same day and expressed an intention to join the planned new party, a source close to the matter said.

Fukuda, a senior vice-minister in the Cabinet Office, said at a press conference he will leave the Liberal Democratic Party to run in the general election expected for next month with the new party, which could realign the opposition camp amid the dominance of the LDP-led coalition.

“I’m not meaning to criticise the LDP,” Fukuda said. “I’d like to create socially desirable human resources with Mr Wakasa.”

Masaru Wakasa, another LDP defector and close aide to Koike, said at the same news conference that more could leave the LDP to join the new party, which has also attracted opposition lawmakers including Goshi Hosono, who recently left the Democratic Party – the largest opposition party – which is struggling to regain public support under new leader Seiji Maehara.

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Fukuda, a 53-year-old House of Representatives member in his third term, will resign from the LDP on Monday.

First elected to the lower house in 2005, Fukuda was defeated in the 2014 general election in his constituency in Kanagawa Prefecture but clung to a Diet seat on proportional representation.

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Also on Sunday, Hosono said many voters believe it is risky to keep Abe in power and do not see the existing opposition parties as realistic alternatives.

“We’ll present a choice in the middle of them,” Hosono said on a television programme. He also said the new party will field candidates across the country.

“We’re not intending to be a third pole. We’re aiming to be the governing party,” Hosono said.