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The Party of Hope leader Yuriko Koike, right, and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe

Backed by Democrats, Koike gets early jump on Abe

Party of Hope becomes instant contender for parliamentary election

KENTARO IWAMOTO and MASAYUKI YUDA, Nikkei staff writers | Japan

TOKYO -- Now it's a duel. Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike on Thursday picked up steam in her challenge to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Her newly established Party of Hope is set to swallow up a large numbers of candidates from the Democratic Party ahead of the general election set for Oct. 22, instantly assuming the DP's role as Japan's largest opposition force.

It was DP leader Seiji Maehara's call to arms that led to the dramatic change in Japan's political landscape. "No matter what it takes, we must stop the Abe government," Maehara told a crowd of some 130 party members from both the upper and lower houses of the Diet, Japan's parliament. His announcement was a de facto merger of the DP with the Party of Hope. "We should choose substance over apperance," Maehara said, calling on his colleagues to join Koike's campaign as candidates of Party of Hope. No one disagreed, changing the entire dynamic of the election at a stroke.

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