Shintaro Ishihara, Tokyo’s former governor and the outspoken new president of Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Restoration Party), will run in the capital’s proportional representation block in next month’s general election, the party’s founder, Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto, announced Sunday.
Appearing on a TV program, Hashimoto said Ishihara, who merged his Taiyo no To (The Sunrise Party) group with Ishin no Kai on Saturday to create a third force in the nation’s politics, does not plan to seek election to the House of Representatives by running in any single-seat constituency.
Hashimoto also told reporters Sunday in Osaka that Nippon Ishin no Kai plans to field at least 241 candidates in the 480-seat Lower House election Dec. 16, adding Ishihara will travel “across the country” to drum up support among voters. On Saturday, Ishihara was appointed party president, while Hashimoto will now serve as deputy leader.
The former members of Taiyo no To, which was only created Tuesday, had to reverse some of their stances on key policies during last-minute talks and accept Hashimoto’s ideas — notably his support for Japan’s participation in the Trans-Pacific Partnership free-trade accord — to allow the merger to go ahead.
However, Osaka’s mayor in turn had to abandon his hopes of eliminating nuclear power by the 2030s.
Whether the two camps effectively created within Nippon Ishin no Kai by the merger will clash over other critical policy areas remains to be seen, while Ishihara and Hashimoto’s ability to work together is also being closely watched.
Ishihara advocates maintaining the nation’s nuclear power plants, whereas Hashimoto had pushed for their complete abolition. And though Ishihara is “cautious” about Japan joining the ongoing TPP negotiations to create a regional free-trade framework, Hashimoto broadly supports the move.
During its brief existence, Taiyo no To was widely viewed as an ultraconservative and highly nationalistic party comprised of elderly Diet veterans. The ability of Nippon Ishin no Kai, which has enjoyed considerable popularity under Hashimoto’s stewardship, to make further inroads with the electorate with Ishihara at the helm is another major focal point.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda and his Democratic Party of Japan have wasted no time in attacking the merger, arguing it is an “illicit union” that papers over fundamental policy differences and was only formed because a general election was called for December.
Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda stated Sunday that the ruling Democratic Party of Japan will retain its ban on hereditary candidates and won’t field any in the Dec. 16 general election.
“I will make no exceptions” on hereditary candidates, Noda, who heads the DPJ, told reporters in Tokyo before leaving for Cambodia to attend a series of regional summit meetings.
The term refers to Diet lawmakers who “inherit” parliamentary seats in constituencies previously held by one of their parents, largely thanks to their electioneering team and name recognition.
The DPJ adopted a policy to prohibit its candidates from inheriting the constituencies of relatives within three degrees of kinship prior to the 2009 general election, which it handily won.
The public has become highly critical of hereditary lawmakers, believing a small circle of blue-blooded, wealthy families have dominated national politics for decades.
Second-generation politicians include former Liberal Democratic Party Prime Ministers Shinzo Abe, Junichiro Koizumi and Yasuo Fukuda, as well as Yukio Hatoyama, who became the first DPJ prime minister after the party swept to victory in the 2009 poll.
The DPJ is now trying to score points among voters by differentiating its tough stance on the issue from the LDP’s position.
There is even speculation the ruling party’s leadership might prevent Hatoyama from running in a Hokkaido constituency on the grounds that he is a hereditary lawmaker. Hatoyama is highly unpopular among voters for backing away during his tenure as prime minister from key campaign pledges made by the DPJ during the 2009 Lower House election.
“It seems that some people in (the DPJ) are trying to stop me from running,” Hatoyama told reporters in Muroran, Hokkaido, on Saturday.
Meanwhile, DPJ Deputy Secretary General Jun Azumi said on an NHK program Sunday that the ruling party will not field any candidates who oppose Noda’s key policies, such as his drive to raise the consumption tax and to facilitate Japan’s entry into the Trans-Pacific Partnership free-trade framework.
After voting against Noda’s crucial tax hike bill in the Lower House in late June, Hatoyama’s party membership was suspended for six months, although this period was later halved.
“Everyone has to keep promises made by the party. Providing they do, they will be approved (as DPJ candidates),” Azumi said on the TV show.