Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike became the leader of a political group Thursday ahead of an election for the metropolitan assembly slated for July 2, taking a clearly confrontational stance against the ruling Liberal Democratic Party she intends to leave.
"I submitted a letter to leave the party to show my determination to go ahead with the drastic reform of Tokyo," Koike said at a kickoff meeting prior to the start of the assembly election campaign.
Koike, who became Tokyo's first female governor last August, took the helm of Tomin First no Kai (group that puts Tokyo residents first), a political group formed last September by Tokyo assembly members supporting her.
"To make Tokyo a city which everyone will envy, I pledge to fight it out for the assembly race with reform-minded fellows," said Koike, who held the key posts of defense minister and environment minister while an LDP lawmaker.
Tomin First no Kai so far endorses 48 candidates in the upcoming election and hopes to secure a majority in the 127-seat assembly through an alliance with the Komeito party and other political forces close to Koike.
The 64-year-old aims to boost the party's support base as its popularity is still limited despite her high support rating.
The stalled relocation plan of the Tsukiji wholesale market is expected to be one of the major focal points in the upcoming election after Koike put the move on hold citing soil and air pollution concerns at the new site in the Toyosu district.
Koike has drawn criticism from the LDP for not making a decision on whether to go ahead with the project, with some members of the LDP, which holds a majority in both the Diet and Tokyo assembly, describing her as a "governor who cannot make a decision."
She was also criticized for retaining her LDP membership, though Koike argued it was the party that did not make a decision when she submitted a letter asking whether she should leave the party when she joined the gubernatorial race in July last year.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, who is also an LDP lawmaker, said at a regular press conference Koike's decision would not have any impact on the election.
Tomin First no Kai was previously headed by Kazusa Noda, a special secretary to the governor, who had been serving as special adviser to the group.