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Party of Hope in disarray after rejecting DP heavyweights

The Party of Hope (headed by Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike) has released its first list of 192 official candidates for the House of Representatives election. Its “exclusionist policy” has resulted in the rejection of leftist or liberal politicians of the Democratic Party (DP), forcing former Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda and others to run as independents. This list consists of former members of the DP, the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), Nippon Ishin [Japan Innovation Party], the Liberal Party, and other groups, giving a strong impression of a hodgepodge alliance of convenience.


Of this list of 192 candidates, 110 (109 in the single-seat districts and 1 on the proportional representation ticket) are from the DP. Around 210 DP members were preparing to run as candidates when the Lower House was dissolved on Sept. 28, but only about half of them have been selected as Party of Hope candidates. The candidates in Tokyo are practically all from the Party of Hope.


Koike’s use of a “litmus test” in the form of a policy agreement to be signed by those applying to join the party evoked an unexpectedly strong reaction from DP Diet members. With the founding of the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan (CDPJ) by Yukio Edano, fewer DP members were joining the Party of Hope, rendering it unable to present its first list of 200 candidates as originally planned.


Koichiro Gemba, deputy chief of the DP’s Election Campaign Committee, stated at the news conference announcing the Party of Hope’s candidates that “there are still people who are undecided about whether to run as the Party of Hope’s candidates, as the CDPJ’s candidates, or as independents.”


Noda, former Democratic Party of Japan President Katsuya Okada, and other big-name politicians have decided to run as independents. While the Party of Hope has been saying that it “does not want to have a strong DP color,” a senior LDP official points out that “candidates with name value have not joined the party, so it will not attract a great deal of interest.”


The Party of Hope is dealing with DP members in a variety of ways. “Assassin” candidates are being fielded in the constituencies of Edano, who formed the CDPJ, and former Minister of Health, Labor, and Welfare Akira Nagatsuma, but no candidates have been named for Noda’s and Okada’s electoral districts.


The Party of Hope’s first list of candidates indicates deference to Komeito because the regional party led by Koike, the Tomin First [Tokyoites First] party, does not command a majority in the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly and it will need Komeito’s cooperation in steering the legislature. This party has not fielded any candidates in constituencies with incumbent Komeito Lower House members.


While the party adopts a confrontational stance against the LDP, it has not fielded any candidates to compete with former Regional Revitalization Minister Shigeru Ishiba, who is anti-Abe; his close confidant, former Environment Minister Ichiro Kamoshita; and Minister of Internal Affairs and Communications Seiko Noda, who is said to be close to Koike. A veteran LDP lawmaker voices the opinion that Koike “might be thinking of collaboration after the Lower House election.” (Abridged)

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