Hashimoto forges ahead with fiery reform agenda

by Eric Johnston

Staff Writer

Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto’s campaign to fundamentally reform the central government is moving forward even as Diet lawmakers and members of his own group criticize his goals as unrealistic.

Earlier this week, nearly 100 members of Hashimoto’s Osaka Ishin no Kai (One Osaka) group met to discuss a draft of a new platform that will form the basis of the policy goals of Hashimoto-backed candidates in the next Lower House election.

Known as Senchu Hassaku, a reference to eight proposals drawn up by Ryoma Sakamoto in 1867 that became the foundation of the Meiji Restoration, the draft calls fundamental reform in eight areas, including local government, the structure of the Diet, civil servant laws, education, social welfare, economics, diplomacy and defense, and constitutional revision.

Domestic roposals include abolishing the central government’s tax revenue grants to local governments, reducing the number of Diet seats and abolishing the Upper House, holding national elections for prime minister, and moving toward a regional system to replace the current prefectural system.

On foreign policy and defense, the draft calls for participating in the Trans-Pacific Partnership free-trade agreement, supporting not only the security treaty with the U.S. but also expanded trilateral cooperation with Australia, and beefing up defense, especially around disputed territory.

The proposals have received a cool reception in Tokyo. On Wednesday, Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda said it was good to have a debate on the nation’s political structure and the problems it faces.

But he emphasized that revising the Constitution would be required to hold a national election for the top leader.

Tachiagare Nippon (Sunrise Party) chief Takao Hiranuma, an arch-conservative who is working with a group of like-minded national politicians, including Shizuka Kamei, as well as Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara to form a new party, was especially critical of Hashimoto’s plans.

There is much speculation on whether the new party would cooperate with candidates backed by Hashimoto’s party in the next Lower House election, although the political and personal differences between Ishihara and Hashimoto would have to be worked out first.

“My impression is that the draft platform has no national value. There are also a lot of ideas for various constitutional revisions. Is Hashimoto really thinking seriously?” Hiranuma asked.

Two proposals in particular have been criticized, even by members of Osaka Ishin no Kai, as unreaslitic.

The first is for revising the Constitution to abolish the Upper House and elect a national leader. Article 96 requires that any national referendum on issues first be approved by a two-thirds majority in both houses.

Hashimoto wants to lower that to a simple majority.