TOKYO -- Japan's looming general election comes as no surprise to Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike, who had been readying a new political party to give voters an alternative to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's brand of leadership, she said in an interview Monday.
Although she had previously denied having ambitions for returning to national politics, Koike said the time was now right for her to have a go at it. She announced her Kibo no To ("Party of Hope") on Monday.
"I thought a lower house election on Oct. 22 might well be a political choice" for the prime minister, Koike said, since the fourth Sunday in October had already been picked for by-elections to fill seats left vacant by the deaths of three members of Abe's Liberal Democratic Party.
A week ago, Koike criticized Abe's plans for a snap election, saying she couldn't understand the justification.
Hold the tax hike
Koike listed the October 2019 consumption tax hike as a top issue for her party, arguing the increase should be put off "until Japan has an economic recovery that people can feel."
"Otherwise, the economy will be hamstrung," she added.
She also wants to increase Japan's competitiveness in financial services using a special economic zone in Tokyo. Urban development initiatives in such lightly regulated zones have been put on hold following allegations of favoritism in the selection of a veterinary school operator headed by a friend of Abe's.
"There is nothing wrong with special zones themselves," she said. The problem is "how disclosure is done."
"When politics is free from strings it can advance reforms that support international competitiveness," Koike argued.
Around last week, Koike decided she would announce her new party Monday, she said. She did not consult close aide Masaru Wakasa, a lower house member, about the timing of the announcement.
Wakasa and others have been working on the new party's by-laws and platform, but Koike said she thought they needed more of a "big picture" approach. Rather than just welcoming defectors from the main opposition Democratic Party, the new party needs to position itself as a force for "conservative reform," she stressed. The governor did not say how many candidates the party will field.