Tokyo Governor Koike resigns as head of fledgling Japan opposition ‘Party of Hope’

Her ‘Party of Hope’ came a distant third to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s ruling party in a general election last month

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 14 November, 2017, 3:43pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 14 November, 2017, 10:08pm

Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike, once seen as possibly becoming Japan’s first female prime minister, has stepped down as leader of her party after suffering a crushing election defeat last month, Japanese media reported on Tuesday.

Koike, 65, announced her decision at a televised meeting of her party legislators, also attended by Yuichiro Tamaki, who was recently elected as Party of Hope co-president.

“I want to leave national political matters to Diet members. I founded the party, but I will step down as representative and support you all in an appropriate manner,” she told the meeting. “I want to leave things to President Tamaki.”

Tamaki expressed hope Koike will continue to be involved in managing the party as an adviser.

Koike told reporters she had finished her “responsibilities as the founder”.

“As governor I will put the metropolitan administration first and cooperate with lawmakers of a reborn Party of Hope,” she said.

The media-savvy former television announcer once complained that Japan has not just a glass ceiling but an “iron plate” holding women back.

Since she first won an upper house seat in 1992, Koike has frequently changed political affiliations but always stayed close to powerful bosses.

After serving in environment and defence minister positions, Koike defied the LDP to run for Tokyo governor last year and trounced her ruling-party rival. During her campaign, she portrayed the long-governing party as being controlled by secretive, wasteful bosses.

The creation of the Party of Hope sent shockwaves through Japanese politics and caused the immediate implosion of the main opposition party. Scores of members pinned their colours to the Koike mast after former Democratic Party leader Seiji Maehara decided to disband to allow members to run as candidates for Koike, who then led her party to a historic victory over the LDP in a July Tokyo assembly poll.

Could rapidly rising Koike become a bigger hawk than Abe?

Vowing to do away with “old politics”, the charismatic former television anchorwoman launched a new party in September that aspired to offer an alternative to the long-governing Liberal Democratic Party and its leader Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in the October 22 snap elections.

Party of Hope fielded 235 candidates for the poll but won a mere 50 seats while Abe’s ruling coalition grabbed a two-thirds majority.

But critics attacked her both for lacking a clear policy platform and for taking a dictatorial approach to the new party – she reportedly forced potential members to sign a pledge that was leaked to the media.

Koike’s support imploded partially because she failed to stand herself in the election – confusing voters who did not know who would be premier if she won.

Koike also alienated some voters when she said she would “exclude” left-leaning members whose views differed from her on such issues as national security and the revision of Japan’s pacifist Constitution.

“It was a complete defeat,” Koike admitted after the election, acknowledging she had been guilty of “arrogance”.

She had stayed on as head of the party despite the defeat but stepped down on Tuesday as the party selects its executive members, according to public broadcaster NHK and other media.

Koike is now expected to focus on the Summer Olympics in Tokyo in 2020, news reports said.

Agence France-Presse, Kyodo, Reuters