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Tokyo Gov. and Party of Hope chief Yuriko Koike speaks to reporters after a party meeting on Wednesday.
Politics

Japan's Koike resists calls to quit as party chief after defeat

Says she will focus on being Tokyo governor, take hands-off role in national policy

| Japan

TOKYO -- Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike on Wednesday took responsibility for the resounding defeat of her Party of Hope in Japan's recent general election, even while insisting that she will continue leading the new national party.

Koike met Wednesday with party lawmakers, including the roughly 50 elected to the lower house Sunday in a contest that saw Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's Liberal Democratic Party-led ruling coalition maintain its two-thirds majority.

"I hurt many people through my words and actions, although that was not my intention, and I want to apologize once again," she said. "It is extremely regrettable that we have lost many talented people. I need to take responsibility as the head of the party for being unable to achieve a good result."

Koike launched the Party of Hope just weeks before the election and presided over a hasty attempt to unite with the former main opposition Democratic Party, which broke apart as a result.

Regarding her earlier comments that she would "exclude" liberal Democrats from her party, which may have alienated voters, she said: "I stressed that a party must have consistent ideals and policy, but my words took on a life of their own."

Harsh verdict

Koike also said that she will focus on her role as Tokyo governor moving forward, and entrust party matters relating to national policy to Hope's members of parliament.

Many attendees voiced harsh opinions about the outcome of the race and what comes next. "There's no reason for the Party of Hope to exist if it ends up becoming a second LDP and a backer of the ruling coalition," one asserted.

"You said you will take responsibility, but what specifically do you mean?" another asked, pressing her to resign along with Democratic Party head Seiji Maehara, who also backed the merger.

But others defended Koike. "Many people cast their ballot for Hope, which wouldn't have happened without Ms. Koike," said one supporter. "We can only become a major, consequential party if we overcome this with Ms. Koike and Mr. Maehara at the helm," said another.

"I faced some calls to step down, but I have a responsibility as the founder of the party, so I want to remain" its leader, Koike told reporters afterwards. She intends to assemble a temporary leadership team before the parliament reconvenes on Nov. 1, and to hold an election for a co-party chief, to come from the lawmakers' ranks, by the end of the year.

(Nikkei)

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