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New party to "pare down" election hopefuls from main opposition

Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike, who this week founded a new political
party, said Friday she will be selective in allowing members of the
moribund main opposition Democratic Party to stand as candidates with
her party in next month's lower house election.

Koike and Democratic Party leader Seiji Maehara met in the
morning after Maehara got his party's agreement Thursday to
effectively disband, letting its members run with the new Kibo no To
(party of hope) in the Oct. 22 election to unify the vote against the
administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

Koike said after the meeting that she has been given a list of
Democratic Party members who want to run with Kibo no To, but has "no
intention of taking them all on."

"I want to narrow (the list) down from various standpoints, like
how well they can fit in with our policies," she said.

While an influx of candidates will allow the fledging party to
compete in more electoral districts nationwide, Koike is likely wary
of the Democratic Party's sizeable liberal wing and baggage from its
turbulent three years in government through 2012 as the Democratic
Party of Japan.

Kibo no To founding member Goshi Hosono, formerly of the
Democratic Party, said Thursday that new entrants will be required to
share a "realistic" national security stance and a desire to propose
an amendment to the Constitution.

He said it "would be tough" to welcome to the party anyone in
favor of scrapping security legislation brought in by the Abe
administration that came into force last year, controversially
expanding the Self-Defense Forces' role overseas.

With little time to sort out the list before official
campaigning starts on Oct. 10, "the important point is that we fight
(together) in this coming election as allies," Koike said after
meeting Maehara.

Maehara told reporters after the meeting that he and Koike had
agreed to "coordinate with each other to aim for a change of
government."

Hosono said Thursday he wants "those with experience leading one
of the three branches of government" -- which includes former prime
ministers Naoto Kan and Yoshihiko Noda -- to refrain from joining the
new party.

Koike denied Friday that this was already party policy. "It's
one way of thinking, but I want to move forward (with a decision)
comprehensively," she said.

She again denied that she has any intention of resigning as
governor to run for election in the lower house. Koike was a lawmaker
with Abe's Liberal Democratic Party before successfully running
against its candidate in last year's gubernatorial election.

"I won't run. I've been saying this since before," Koike said.

The Abe administration's top spokesman spoke dismissively Friday
of the cooperation between Koike and Maehara, saying the two parties
have "completely different" views on national security and whether to
go ahead with a consumption tax increase planned for October 2019.

"I think the fact that they've become a single party in just one
night, without any discussion of policy, shows that they're just
trying to get the numbers together for the election," Chief Cabinet
Secretary Yoshihide Suga told a press conference.

Abe dissolved the House of Representatives on Thursday for an
election that he said is about fiscal policy and response to North
Korea, but appears timed to catch the opposition unprepared.

Trade minister Hiroshige Seko on Friday criticized Koike's
denial that she will stand in the election herself, saying she "needs
to properly come out into national politics and make clear that (her
party) will designate her as preferred prime minister."

Koike said she will hold a meeting on Saturday with Osaka Gov.
Ichiro Matsui and Aichi Gov. Hideaki Omura, who governs the area
around Nagoya in central Japan.

The Japan Innovation Party, led by Matsui, shares common
policies with Koike's party including opposition to the consumption
tax hike. But Matsui has warned that coordination would be
"impossible" if the entire Democratic Party is accepted into Kibo no
To.

Yukiko Kada, former governor of Shiga Prefecture in western
Japan, is considering standing in the election, sources close to the
matter said Friday. She is expected to approach Koike's new party due
to their shared antinuclear stance. (Sept. 29)


Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike attends a press conference in Tokyo on Sept. 29, 2017. Koike said she will be selective in allowing members of the moribund main opposition Democratic Party to stand as candidates with her new party in the Oct. 22 House of Representatives election. (Kyodo)