Ishihara-Kawamura tieup rattles Hashimoto

by Eric Johnston

Staff Writer

Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Restoration Party) head Toru Hashimoto expressed criticism and disappointment Thursday over an agreement between former Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara’s Taiyo no To (The Sunrise Party) and Nagoya Mayor Takashi Kawamura’s Genzei Nippon (Tax Reduction Japan) to unite ahead of the Lower House election expected next month.

The agreement between Ishihara and Kawamura leaves Hashimoto the odd man out. Ishin no Kai officials say the chances of formally joining Taiyo no To and Genzei Nippon in a grand coalition are now extremely slim due to fundamental differences over the consumption tax, nuclear power, constitutional revision and the Trans-Pacific Partnership free-trade accord.

With the election expected to be held Dec. 16, barely a month away, Nippon Ishin no Kai intends to pour its resources into shoring up its Kansai base and supporting candidates in western Japan, especially Kyushu, where it enjoys more support than eastern Japan.

In addition, Your Party and Nippon Ishin no Kai still have a close relationship, while Hashimoto can also count on support from Aichi Gov. Hideaki Omura’s Chukyo Ishin no Kai, which has an identical platform.

Hashimoto did say he would continue to work hard to find a way to cooperate with Ishihara, with whom he remains close personally. But he took news of the Ishihara-Kawamura tieup hard.

“It’s difficult for us because it turned out the alignment agreement was decided in advance. To be honest, we’re at a loss about what to do,” Hashimoto said Thursday morning, adding Ishihara did not contact him in advance about the decision to join forces with Kawamura.

“I have doubts about Ishihara’s management. Politicians don’t come together in this manner,” he added.

Meanwhile, former Environment Minister Sakihito Ozawa has announced he plans to join Nippon Ishin no Kai. Another fifteen to 20 current Diet members are said to be considering offers to join the party, which is expected to announce this weekend up to 80 candidates for the election.

However, Hashimoto has admitted there is no time now to prepare for a Lower House election in the way he’d hoped. Coordination between Nippon Ishin no Kai and Your Party in deciding which candidates should run in which districts remains problematic, and Hashimoto must also decide who among the students at his political school will be selected to run.