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Japan. Metropolitan elections: victory for Yuriko Koike, once part of Shinzo Abe's liberals

Populist victory in Tokyo, exploit of the Communist Party

July is a lucky month for Tokyo’s governor, Yuriko Koike. On Sunday, the Tomin first no Kai, the party she founded last January, won the elections in the metropolitan capital. Last year, also in July, Koike was elected governor of the capital with a surprising victory against her former party, the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

Koike’s party secured 49 seats out of 127, plus 6 tightly allied independents, while the party in the national government, the LDP, halved to 23 seats.
The Communist Party has confirmed its position as the main opposition force with 19 seats, two more than in previous elections. The Tomin first no kai – “Tokyo residents First” – will govern with the support of Komeito, a Buddhist- inspired party, without an alliance with the LPD.

This win is another step in Keiko’s political revenge, which last year accepted the nomination to Tokyo’s governor office, against the wishes of her party.

The governor has had a long career in the LDP: she was minister of the environment and of defense and also tried to win the presidency of the party and the leadership of the country in 2008, but failed. This failed attempt seemed to be the cause of the break with the leadership and Abe in particular.

So, blocked out of the internal succession of the party, Koike bet she would become the first woman prime minister of Japan and would win the support of her old party from outside.

Yesterday, several resignations were presented. The first one was Koike’s resignation to the LDP, presented some time ago, but only accepted formally now. The governor stated her motivation in respect of the separation of responsibilities with the assembly at the metropolitan level.

The most disapproving press, however, sees Koike’s visionary design. The main fear would be having to justify herself for any scandals or phrases out of place that would damage her popularity. In fact, among the officers elected in her new party there are several figures with extreme right nationalist positions. The governor has aligned herself with the most revisionist of Abe’s administration positions, in particular on the revision of the pacifist constitution.

Actually, the scandals involving the government in recent months are considered the cause of the LDP’s decline and the source of another series of resignations within the Liberal Democratic Party, failure which the leadership did not want to blame Abe for, although the mood of the voters was clear during the election campaign. Abe has kept away from the competition and has participated in only two events, one of which was behind closed doors.

The only public event he took part in, in Akihabara, has seen him in big trouble. To the cry “Abe yameru” – “Abe resign” – the most diehard activists were joined by many others, just common participants. These events are read by commentators as a symptom of a deeper malaise in the usually courteous Japan, even towards its prime ministers.

This internal battle within the Japanese right will continue in the coming months, even though the right does not seem to have a consensus crisis. The only one who now seriously is in fear is the premier Abe, if not directly for Koike, for the other habatsu, the internal powerful currents of the party that may consider him to be at his sunset.

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