OSAKA – Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto will personally appeal to Diet members to join a new political party he is forming in mid-September and run in the next Lower House election, sources in his local political group said Tuesday.
The formal announcement of the new party is expected to be made at a fundraiser for Hashimoto’s Osaka Ishin no Kai (One Osaka) on Sept. 12. A public discussion between Hashimoto and Diet members interested in Osaka Ishin no Kai’s platform for the national election, which is expected to be finalized by the end of this week, will take place in Osaka on Sept. 9, immediately following the end of the current Diet session, the sources said.
“We’re not going to call on political parties to participate in the public discussion. We want to speak to Diet members individually,” Osaka Gov. and Osaka Ishin no Kai Secretary General Ichiro Matsui said Monday.
In addition to halving the number of Lower House seats to 240, the new party platform is expected to call for ending the prefectural system of government and creating a system of between nine and 13 regions with greater autonomy.
Fundamental reform of the tax system, including turning the national consumption tax into a local tax, will be part of the platform. Hashimoto is also expected to support Japan’s participation in the Trans-Pacific Partnership free-trade agreement.
To become a national party, Hashimoto needs the formal participation of five current Diet members. Democratic Party of Japan Lower House member Yorihisa Matsuno and Liberal Democratic Party Lower House member Kenta Matsunami have been in talks with Hashimoto for the past few weeks about forming a new party and are expected to join, and Osaka Ishin no Kai officials are confident they already have five members lined up.
Formal solicitation of potential candidates for the new party is expected to begin following the Sept. 9 meeting. While the majority are expected to come from the Kansai region, Hashimoto aims to attract candidates in other parts of Japan where he and Osaka Ishin no Kai are particularly popular, especially Ehime Prefecture, northern Kyushu, Niigata Prefecture and parts of the Kanto region.
A number of candidates will also come from the political school that Hashimoto established in March. There are 888 students there currently studying the art of political campaigning.
Hashimoto intends to endorse the most promising students in the Lower House election. But many in Osaka Ishin no Kai have long been concerned that selecting only students from the school as its candidates could result in a group of Diet members with no governing experience. In recent weeks, they have been sounding out experienced Diet members about joining the party.
Some, like former LDP Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, declined the invitation to join a new party but suggested that some sort of postelection tieup between the LDP and Hashimoto was possible.