Nippon Ishin’s dream to be main challenger to DPJ, LDP threatened

by Eric Johnston

Staff Writer

Despite the last-minute announcement, Shiga Gov. Yukiko Kada’s Nippon Mirai no To (Japan Future Party) political group is the culmination of months of behind-the-scenes preparation, and its advent spells trouble for the hopes of Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Restoration Party) to become the main third political force.

“There were lots of voices saying they had no choice from among the various political parties, and they said they wanted a true ‘third force’ party,” Kada said in explaining her reason for forming Mirai no To after months of consultations with Shiga politicians and voters.

Mirai no To’s prime campaign pledge is to end all reliance on nuclear power in 10 years. In addition, Kada, one of only three female governors, is emphasizing a greater role for women in society. While not officially opposed to raising the consumption tax, she is calling for the elimination of wasteful public spending first.

The list of those who want to ally themselves with Kada reads like a who’s who of Nippon Ishin opponents, especially those against its founder, Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto.

Mirai no To’s No. 2, Tetsunari Iida of the Institute for Sustainable Energy Policies, was a Hashimoto adviser who grew disillusioned with the mayor’s flip-flop on nuclear power, particularly after his party joined forces with the pronuclear Ishihara.

Others are politicians like Ichiro Ozawa, whose Kokumin no Seikatsu ga Daiichi (People’s Life First) said it will disband and merge with Kada, leading to speculation he will be the true power.

Kada was also in discussions Wednesday with Your Party just a day after its leader, Yoshimi Watanabe, said he would not team up with Hashimoto. Kada and Watanabe share similar views on nuclear power but differ on issues like the Trans-Pacific Partnership initiative.

The rush by Hashimoto’s former allies to merge or cooperate with Kada had Nippon Ishin officials worried about a sudden influx of money and organization tipping the balance for Mirai no To candidates in tight races, particularly in the Kansai region.

Hashimoto, campaigning in the Tohoku region this week, reacted to news of Kada’s party by challenging her to a debate on energy and saying he no longer believes a nuclear power-free Japan is possible anytime soon.

“This new political group was formed to get out of nuclear power. But no matter how much they say they will do so, it can’t be done,” Hashimoto said.