TOKYO • Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike does not expect her new conservative party to pick a candidate for prime minister during the campaign for the Oct 22 election, leaving the door open to eventually backing a lawmaker from Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's party.
Ms Koike's new Party of Hope has emerged as a serious challenge to Mr Abe's Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) supporter base, but she has said she would not personally contest the election.
Mr Abe called the snap election last month in hopes that his ruling bloc would keep its majority in Parliament's Lower House, where it has a two-thirds "super" majority. Losing a simple majority would be a major unexpected upset, but a poor performance by the LDP could put pressure on Mr Abe to step down.
Asked in an interview published yesterday by the Asahi newspaper whether her party would pick a candidate for premier from its own ranks during the election, Ms Koike replied: "Basically, no."
The campaign kicks off formally on Tuesday.
Ms Koike, 65, a former defence minister and ex-member of Mr Abe's LDP, on Friday said all options were on the table regarding whom her party would back when Parliament convenes to vote on a prime minister after the election.
"We need to see the results (of the election). We must protect this country and, at the same time, we must change it," Ms Koike said. "We will decide after the election, after confirming the trend in which our Party of Hope can achieve this."
SETTING OUT TASKS
We must protect this country and, at the same time, we must change it ... We will decide after the election, after confirming the trend in which our Party of Hope can achieve this.
TOKYO GOVERNOR YURIKO KOIKE
In the interview, Ms Koike praised former defence minister Shigeru Ishiba, whom she backed in a 2012 LDP leadership race won by Mr Abe, and lauded Internal Affairs Minister Seiko Noda for her work on behalf of handicapped people.
Mr Ishiba has criticised Mr Abe on several fronts including his proposal to revise the post-war Constitution's Pacifist Article 9 by clarifying the status of the military. Mr Ishiba has said Mr Abe's proposal does not go far enough.
And Ms Noda has said she wants to run in the next LDP leadership race when Mr Abe's current term expires in September 2018.