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Tokyo assembly race poses first big test for ambitious governor

With few differences on policy, Yuriko Koike faces de facto referendum on her leadership

A crowd gathers in Tokyo on Friday to hear candidates speak.

TOKYO -- The race for the 127-member Tokyo assembly officially began Friday, with Japan's ruling Liberal Democratic Party and allies of Gov. Yuriko Koike locked in a battle that could frustrate the ambitions of both their leaders.

"We aim to secure a stable majority with allies who will work with us on reforms," Koike has said. Tomin First no Kai, her new political group that promises to "put Tokyoites first," is fielding 50 out of 259 total candidates, with another 38 allies running independently or with a different party.

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