By running in the Tokyo gubernatorial election and beating the LDP-backed candidate former Internal Affairs Minister Hiroya Masuda, former Defense Minister Yuriko Koike made clear her determination to go against the will of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP). While some in the party are saying she should be given a severe penalty, such as expulsion from the party, others are seeking ways to achieve reconciliation in view of preparations for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
“In order to succeed in hosting the Olympic and Paralympic Games in four years, we would like to proceed in a way that respects the will of the voters that was revealed in the election,” Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told party members at an LDP board meeting on Monday. The party’s soon-to-be-appointed next secretary general, General Council Chairman Toshihiro Nikai, worked with Koike in the defunct New Frontier Party and still maintains friendly ties with her. Toren (Federation of Tokyo Metropolitan Liberal Democratic Party Branches) was scheduled to discuss the issue of how to deal with Koike on Tuesday. However, the meeting was put off in order to take a “wait and see” attitude for the time being, a senior LDP member said.
Koike, who has repeatedly criticized Toren as a “black box”, now feels her relationship with the group is the key to her success as governor. During a press conference on Monday, she took a cautious approach toward the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly, saying, “We can certainly find a middle ground to serve the interests of Tokyo residents.” Koike had previously mentioned dissolving the assembly in the first meeting.
The background behind this situation is the unique structure of municipal government. Under the parliamentary cabinet system, unlike the national government for which the Diet members choose a prime minister, both the assembly members and governor are chosen directly by voters. This results in two equally powerful entities. Since the governor needs the approval of the assembly to finalize budgets, Koike needs to rectify her relations with the LDP and Komeito, which together represent the majority of seats in the assembly, to implement her campaign pledges.
“Since I have been elected, I want to realistically seek ways to work together [with Toren].” Koike, who seems to have chosen a realistic path, also spoke of establishing an organization to eliminate corruption in the Tokyo metropolitan government. “I will uncover the links between public policy and private interests, as well as special interest politics,” she said, demonstrating her joint approach of flexibility and firmness.