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Koike says new party aims to topple Abe gov't in upcoming election

Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike said Monday her newly founded political
party will field candidates in a majority of seats in the Oct. 22
lower house election, aiming to take power from the ruling coalition
led by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

"We will take them on this time, of course," Koike said in an
interview with Kyodo News.

Masaru Wakasa, a founding member of Koike's Kibo no To (party of
hope), had expressed pessimism on Sunday that the party will win
enough votes to seize power.

Kibo no To, which Koike says she will lead from outside the
Diet, was established just last week, giving it little time to get a
team together before official campaigning in the House of
Representatives election begins on Oct. 10.

But Koike said Monday her party will aim to put up candidates in
at least 233 seats -- just over half of the House of Representatives'
465 seats -- in order to challenge the ruling coalition of Abe's
Liberal Democratic Party and the smaller Komeito party.

She said the party will announce its first tranche of candidates
as soon as Tuesday.

Koike also said Kibo no To will be a force for reform of Japan's
Constitution, which has remained unaltered since it came into force
in 1947.

"We can't run away from debate on the Constitution in the first
place...rather, we want to actively participate in it," she said.

Abe's LDP also wants to revise the document, something that
would require the support of two-thirds of parliament before gaining
a majority in a national referendum.

Public opinion on revision has long hinged on the future of the
Constitution's Article 9, by which Japan forever renounces war and
the maintenance of "war potential."

Abe suggested in May that the existing clauses of Article 9 be
retained and a specific mention of the country's Self-Defense Forces
added in order to clarify their constitutional status.

Koike said Monday that Article 9 should be included in the
debate over a potential amendment, but criticized Abe's May statement
as "unhealthy."

"(Abe) came out with it suddenly. He's become fixated on
constitutional revision itself," she said.

Japanese voters will fill out two ballots on Oct. 22: one for
their electoral district and one for proportional representation.
Reforms aimed at making the lower house more representative have seen
it shrink by 10 seats from 475 to 465, a postwar low. (Oct. 2)