TOKYO • Popular Tokyo governor Yuriko Koike yesterday named 192 candidates for her new party that aims to wrest power from Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, but insisted that she would not stand in the snap election on Oct 22.
Ms Koike has shaken up Japan's sleepy political scene by launching Kibo No To (Party of Hope), vowing a break with the old school represented by Mr Abe's Liberal Democratic Party (LDP).
She plans to have at least 233 candidates - giving her the theoretical chance of taking a majority in the powerful Lower House of Japan's 465-seat Parliament.
But asked if she plans to run, she said: "100 per cent no. I've been saying that from the beginning."
Her remarks came after weekend polls by the Yomiuri Shimbun daily show only 12 per cent of voters would approve of her quitting her governorship of the Japanese capital to run for prime minister.
Ms Koike, a former LDP member and defence minister, has said she would not resign as governor to run now, especially ahead of the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games. But she has made no secret of her desire to be Japan's first female prime minister - she even named her pet terrier "Sori", Japanese for "premier".
Yesterday, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, Mr Abe's ally, noted that while Ms Koike has said she will not run, she has not named her party's pick for prime minister if Kibo No To wins a majority.
"If Koike really is concerned about the country she should make this clear, as well as lay out its policy positions - just as how she has been talking about government transparency," said Mr Suga.
Professor of politics Tomoaki Iwai at Nihon University said Ms Koike's reluctance to go all the way would overshadow her party's campaign.
"She appears to have concluded that she may not be able to take power this time," he said.
More than half the candidates presented by Ms Koike were former members of the Democratic Party - previously Japan's main opposition party.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS