Tokyo's Koike says she will stay as governor

Tokyo's Koike says she will stay as governor

The Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Thursday dissolved the House of Representatives, a move that was being believed aimed at securing stronger majority in both Houses of the Country's Parliament.

The telegenic Ms Koike, 65, said on Monday in a surprise announcement that she would be helming the new national Kibo No To (Party Of Hope), rather than playing just a supporting role in its formation.

The election is to be held on Oct 22 with official campaigning beginning Oct 10, Natsuo Yamaguchi, leader of the LDP's junior coalition partner Komeito, told reporters after a meeting with Mr Abe on Monday afternoon.

Abe, whose ratings have risen to around 50% from around 30% in July, is gambling his ruling bloc can keep its Lower House majority even if it loses the two-thirds "super majority" needed to achieve his long-held goal of revising the post-war pacifist constitution to clarify the military's role.

"Opposition parties can't win elections when they're all split up", he said.

Opinion polls showed the Party of Hope closing the gap on the ruling party, despite signs that Abe has emerged relatively unscathed from two summer scandals that dragged his support to the lowest levels since he became prime minister in late 2012.

Japan's main Opposition party, the Democratic Party, will support Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike's Party of Hope, launched on Wednesday.

According to worldwide media, Abe, who held the office in 2012, seeks to expand his grip on power withing in his party, Liberal-Democratic party for extending its premiership next year.

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Ms Koike, however, yesterday proposed a further delay to the tax hike until Japan's economy - which grew 1 per cent previous year - gains sustainable momentum.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe dissolved the Lower House on September 28 at the start of the extraordinary Diet session, setting up a likely showdown between his ruling party and a new political force.

"This will be a tough battle, but it's all about how we will protect Japan, and the lives and peaceful existence of the Japanese people", Abe told a group of lawmakers.

The Democratic Party had already been losing lawmakers, with some being founding members of newly formed party.

The question is whether Koike can duplicate the astonishing success of her 2016 race for governor, where she humiliated Abe by winning almost all of the seats she contested in the metropolitan assembly for her then-named Tokyo First party. Abe said the decision to call the election now was influenced by the tensions with North Korea, which lately has fired several missiles over Japanese territory.

Speaking at a press conference Thursday originally scheduled to discuss her running of the metropolitan government, Koike said she is still "scrutinizing" how many candidates the party will field, including current Democratic Party members keen to run with her party's backing.

Sources close to the governor said she has signaled that she intends to treat the newcomers differently from those who defected from the Democratic Party earlier to help her found the new party.

Koike's new national party wants to delay the sales tax hike because of economic risks, and will also aim to phase out nuclear power - a source of widespread unease in Japan since the 2011 Fukushima disaster.

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