The launch of a new political party announced Tuesday by Shiga Gov. Yukiko Kada was greeted with caution and skepticism by existing political forces, who said her plan to create a new force centered on an antinuclear agenda could easily collapse once the Dec. 16 Lower House election is over.
“Japan’s politics would lose trust if the new party is only aimed at winning the election,” Liberal Democratic Party President Shinzo Abe said, referring to the launch of Nippon Mirai no To (Japan Future Party) earlier in the day.
Abe questioned if the party can work out policy differences among various small groups, including people close to Kada and members who came from Ichiro Ozawa’s Kokumin no Seikatsu ga Daiichi (People’s Life First), which disbanded Tuesday to merge with Kada’s party.
Natsuo Yamaguchi, chief of LDP ally New Komeito, warned that the new party may “face the same fate as the Democratic Party of Japan,” saying that the DPJ-led government came to a standstill after failing to maintain party unity on key issues.
The DPJ was also critical of the new party.
“It came right out of the blue,” DPJ Secretary General Azuma Koshiishi told reporters, while DPJ heavyweight and Deputy Prime Minister Katsuya Okada pointed out at a news conference that the new party “has no organization to carry out its policy agendas.”
The harshest criticism came from Toru Hashimoto, the No. 2 man in Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Restoration Party) which was recently launched and now has former Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara as its leader.
Hashimoto has become wary about moves by Kada and other small parties because Nippon Ishin, despite being seen as the most viable political “third force,” is apparently losing steam as Ishihara’s ultraconservative thrust is beginning to turn off many voters.
“An antinuclear group is very dangerous in some ways,” Hashimoto said on a TV program. “It’s as if former Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama promised to move the U.S. Marine Corps’ Futenma Air Station outside Okinawa Prefecture. It was easy to say, but he was not able to achieve it.”
Hashimoto’s comments came as he indicated Tuesday that he has given up trying to persuade Your Party to join forces with his political grouping.
“We’re in a very severe situation,” Hashimoto said, suggesting even though his party and Your Party share policies in key areas and philosophies, they have failed to reach an agreement on which of the two parties would field candidates in districts where both have been planning to have people run.
Hashimoto on Monday urged Your Party chief Yoshimi Watanabe to make a decision on the merger by Tuesday, but Watanabe told reporters, “It’s virtually impossible.”
“Talks about the merger already broke up in August, so it’s a closed issue for Your Party,” Watanabe said in Tochigi Prefecture, adding his party wants to deepen cooperation with Nippon Ishin but without merging.