Tokyo Governor Koike to challenge Japanese PM Abe with new party

Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike attends a news conference to announce the name of new political party at Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building in Tokyo, Japan September 25, 2017. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon

TOKYO (Reuters) - Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike on Monday said she will lead a new national party that will challenge Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) in a general election expected to be called for next month.

Koike, who named her new political group the Party of Hope, has emerged as a serious threat to Abe after she won the Tokyo governorship a year ago and in July fielded candidates who routed the LDP in elections for the metropolitan assembly.

“I want the Japanese people to believe that there is hope for tomorrow,” she said at a televised press conference. “Our ideal is to proceed free of special interests,” she added.

Koike is an ex-defense minister and former LDP member, and the challenge to her old party could pose a greater risk for Abe, who is expected to call a snap election for next month.

Abe is benefiting from improved ratings and opposition disarray, but should he suffer a big loss of seats it could spur a challenge to his leadership from within the LDP.

A weekend survey by the Nikkei business daily showed 44 percent of voters will back Abe’s LDP with only 8 percent supporting the main opposition Democratic Party.

Reporting by Tim Kelly; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore