Japan's Koike Steps Down as Party Leader to Focus on Tokyo Post

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(Bloomberg) -- Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike resigned as head of a national opposition party Tuesday, after failing to make a dent in Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s overwhelming parliamentary majority in last month’s election.

Koike, a former defense and environment minister, announced she was forming the Party of Hope the same day Abe said he was calling the election. She drew an initial burst of support for a "reformist conservative" agenda, including delaying a tax hike, phasing out nuclear power, and encouraging diversity. The bubble burst when she fumbled a merger with the then-main opposition Democratic Party.

The resulting opposition division helped Abe to win a decisive victory, keeping him on course to become Japan’s longest-ever serving premier. The main opposition is now the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, which consists of left-leaning opposition politicians who did not join Koike’s upstart party.

Yuichiro Tamaki, who was elected co-leader last week, will take over from Koike, but faces an uphill struggle to restore the group’s popularity. A survey published by the Asahi newspaper Tuesday put support for the Party of Hope at three percent, compared with 37 percent for Abe’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party and 12 percent for the CDPJ.

Koike, a former TV news anchor, left her seat as an LDP member of parliament to run for governor last year, successfully beating off a rival picked by Abe to become the city’s first female leader. She then launched a new local party that thrashed the LDP in city assembly elections in July.

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