Hashimoto leaves the fate of new party up to voters

by Eric Johnston

Staff Writer

With the Lower House now likely to be dissolved Friday, Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto said Wednesday the time for making new campaign plans for his party is over and it’s up to voters to decide.

“There’s no point in talking about whether can or can’t prepare. We have to go with what we have,” Hashimoto said, just hours after Noda expressed his willingness to dissolve the Lower House as early as Friday.

Hashimoto said his party, Ishin no Kai (Japan Restoration Party), still hopes to reveal Saturday the first 80 candidates it plans to field, but he admitted it will be tough to stick that deadline now.

In addition, the party’s falling popularity, still unresolved differences between Ishin no Kai and Shintaro Ishihara’s new Taiyo no To (Sunrise Party), and concerns over fielding inexperienced candidates who lack the necessary war chests to compete against the established parties, questions are growing over whether Hashimoto’s group is really ready and able to play a large role on the national stage.

Ishin no Kai’s first group of candidates are mostly from Osaka and other parts of the Kansai region, where the party’s popularity remains strong.

A second group, mostly from outside the region, is now being interviewed and the final candidates from that group are expected to be announced next month.

There will be a gathering next week in Osaka of local Ishin no Kai groups from around Japan, who will discuss candidates and campaign strategy.

“We have to make preparations with the idea that there will be an election by the end of this year,” Hashimoto, the mayor of Osaka, said Tuesday.

The preparations may still include some sort of alliance agreement with Ishihara’s Taiyo no To, either before or after the election. But with the looming dissolution of the Lower House, time is running out to overcome their vast differences in stated policy.

Toranosuke Katayama, a former Tachiagare Nippon (Sunrise Party of Japan) member now with Taiyo no To, said Tuesday his party will continue to try to work with Hashimoto to overcome their differences on issues ranging from the Trans-Pacific Partnership free-trade program to nuclear power to transforming the consumption tax into a local tax. Hashimoto, while continuing to insist the two parties must be in agreement on policy, told reporters Wednesday morning he is also in favor of continued discussions.

“Ishihara is the only one who can pull together a third political force. Winning voter support means making all efforts to unify policies. However, if all we do is stick to our own positions, it won’t lead the creation of a large political power,” he said.

The other major problem Ishin no Kai faces is funding for its candidates, who are not allowed to accept political donations from corporations or other organizations and must find ways to fund their campaign themselves. Ishin no Kai officials have told potential candidates they must secure at least ¥20 million, and possibly up to ¥100 million, to receive party support.

Candidates can get around this restriction by hosting political fundraising parties for which they would sell tickets to businesses, groups and individuals. However, throwing enough parties to quickly raise the necessary funds will be a tough task unless the candidate is well-known or has an experienced support organization.

As many Ishin no Kai candidates are unknown political novices, a lack of funds may severely hamper their chances if the election is held before the end of next month, especially in districts where the established parties’ candidates can outspend them.

Ire from Hiroshima

HIROSHIMA
Kyodo

Hiroshima Mayor Kazumi Matsui on Wednesday criticized Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto’s recent remark that it is practically impossible to eliminate nuclear weapons.

“The remark may be by a person who has not understood the realities of the atomic bomb catastrophe,” Matsui said. “If he knows the realities, it would make a difference.”

Hashimoto, who has attracted media attention by launching Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Restoration Party), made the remark in Hiroshima on Saturday.

The comment also drew the ire of Hiroshima Gov. Hidehiko Yuzaki.