Hashimoto draws over 2,000 for election army

Kyodo

The up-and-coming political group led by outspoken Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto launched an entity Saturday to train candidates for national elections, drawing more than 2,000 aspiring lawmakers frustrated over the nation’s squabbling national parties.

Ishin Seiji Juku, which roughly means “restoration political institute,” is mainly aimed at grooming candidates for the next general election, which must be held by summer 2013.

Hashimoto’s group, Osaka Ishin no Kai (One Osaka), has yet to register as a political party, but its growing popularity in Japan’s second-largest metropolitan area is prompting the major parties to gear up for combat or prepare to cooperate at the next Lower House election.

Osaka Ishin no Kai has sought to enhance decentralization and pursue radical administrative and political system changes, including scrapping the House of Councilors and allowing direct elections for prime minister.

The group said it will pick about 400 people through a series of lectures and debate contests, and field roughly 300 candidates in the election.

Recent Kyodo News polls suggest that over 60 percent of the public hopes to see his group enter national politics and nearly 40 percent back his efforts to bring a new political framework to power in the poll, eclipsing those in favor of a grand coalition combining the ruling Democratic Party of Japan with the opposition Liberal Democratic Party.