AP Interview: Tokyo Gov. vows to change nation from her city

AP Interview: Tokyo Gov. vows to change nation from her city

October 6th, 2017 by Associated Press in National International

Tokyo Governor and Party of Hope leader Yuriko Koike speaks during an interview with The Associated Press at her party's office in Tokyo, Friday, Oct. 6, 2017. Just days before Japan’s national election campaign kicks off, all eyes are on Koike, Tokyo’s governor. (AP Photo/Koji Sasahara)

Photo by The Associated Press /Times Free Press.

TOKYO (AP) - Popular Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike, a rumored candidate in upcoming parliamentary elections, says she wants to influence national politics to speed up changes needed in Japan by starting them in her city.

Koike, who became Tokyo's first female leader last year and led her local party to a stunning victory in July city elections, has launched a new national party, the Party of Hope, to challenge Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in the Oct. 22 parliamentary vote.

Koike told The Associated Press on Friday she wants to use her experience in Tokyo to encourage changes nationally, and is working with like-minded politicians to push for her goals. She says women's advancement and measures for Japan's aging and shrinking population have come too slowly under Abe.

"As Tokyo governor, I want to achieve policies in Tokyo as a model for entire Japan to follow. Why? Because it's faster that way," Koike said in an interview at the office of her local party, Tomin First no Kai, wearing a scarf with a blue-and-white Tokyo 2020 Olympics motif. "Everything takes too long in national politics."

She didn't make clear whether she plans to run for parliament or is seeking the prime ministership.

Koike worked with Abe as a former lawmaker in the ruling Liberal Democratic Party for 15 years. She served in key Cabinet and ruling party posts, including defense minister and environment minister, before becoming the leader of Japan's capital in July 2016. A TV newscaster-turned-politician, Koike is stylish and media savvy.

As Tokyo governor, she has advocated administrative reforms, reviewed plans for costly venues for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics to reduce city spending, suspended the divisive relocation of a famed fish market over safety concerns, and halved her salary.

Koike, however, has faced accusations from some that she hasn't actually achieved much, and running for parliament now would expose her to criticism that she is abandoning Tokyo before her work is done.