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Governor Koike’s “Tokyoites First” Taking Shape

SNA (Tokyo) — While it is still not formally a political party, Governor Yuriko Koike’s “Tokyoites First” is gaining more definition and shape as it rapidly heads toward what is widely expected to be a command performance in the July 2 Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly elections.

At present, Tokyoites First already holds 5 seats in the 127-seat chamber. They have endorsed 25 candidates for the coming elections, and are expecting to run at least 64 candidates in order to gain their own majority. It was recently revealed that they expect to have all of their candidates in place by June 1.

The formal head of Tokyoites First is not Governor Koike, but rather her political secretary, Kazusa Noda. Just coming into the public eye this very week, the 43-year-old Noda is clearly a man to watch.

Up until this point, Noda has shown ambition, but not much in the way of electoral results. He ran in two House of Representatives elections as a candidate of different parties and lost. He also ran twice for Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly seats, winning the first time and losing the second. In recent years his affiliation had been with Toru Hashimoto’s Japan Restoration Party, but his connection with Yuriko Koike traces back almost two decades. When she decided to run for governor last year, she brought him aboard as her close aide and secretary. Now Noda is suddenly at the center of the political world, the formal leader of Tokyoites First.

Japanese newspapers are starting to seek Noda out for interviews, and he is giving useful answers. He notes, for example, that the Tokyoites First alliance with Komeito is not only for the purpose of winning on election day, but also for ensuring smooth governance in the years ahead.

Noda is also beginning to provide a clearer notion of what policies can be expected from Tokyoites First. Essentially, it is the same mix found in the Osaka Restoration Association, now led by Osaka Governor Ichiro Matsui. The basic ideological orientation is rightwing, especially in international affairs, with an economic policy based upon deregulation and measures to enhance the competitiveness of private businesses. In other words, Tokyoites First is mainly about economic neoliberalism.

Considering that fact and Noda’s own political background, it’s not difficult to imagine Tokyoites First trying to link up with the Osaka Restoration Association in the future, whatever tensions may exist between these two forces at present.

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