Ishihara-Hashimoto talks on new party hit snag

by Eric Johnston

Staff Writer

Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara and Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto met Wednesday morning in Osaka to explore a possible tieup in the next Lower House election, but differences between the two over key issues remained.

To what extent and in what form the two will cooperate before or after the election remains unclear.

Details of the meeting were scarce, with Hashimoto only saying afterward that no decisions had been made. But the Osaka mayor launched his own political school last month that aims to field up to 400 candidates in an election and capture at least 200 seats. More than 2,000 people from around the country have enrolled, sending shock waves through the established parties in Tokyo.

Ishihara, along with Kokumin Shinto (People’s New Party) leader Shizuka Kamei, is exploring the possibility of forming a new political party. He campaigned for Hashimoto in November’s mayoral election and said in December there were parts of Hashimoto’s national platform, Ishin Hassoku, or the Eight-point Restoration, he largely agrees with.

However, despite the words of support, and strong efforts by Kamei in particular to get Hashimoto and Ishihara to forge a pre-election agreement, there are several areas where the Tokyo governor and Osaka mayor are in disagreement.

Ishihara has expressed reservations over two initiatives of Hashimoto’s in particular.

The first is the creation of a backup capital in Osaka in the event a major disaster cripples Tokyo. Ishihara is not opposed to a limited, temporary move, but he is opposed to a grand design that relocates much of the central government to Osaka.

Ishihara and Hashimoto are even farther apart on nuclear power. Hashimoto is an opponent while Ishihara has said nuclear power is necessary.