Nippon Mirai poised to break apart

by Eric Johnston

Staff Writer

Formed only a month ago, Nippon Mirai no To (Tomorrow Party of Japan) may soon be history. Founder Shiga Gov. Yukiko Kada and ally Ichiro Ozawa are at odds over the party’s future, while Kada faces intense criticism within her prefecture for ignoring her duties to play national politics.

On Wednesday, veteran lawmaker Shizuka Kamei, who joined forces with Kada, informed her he was leaving the party after a disagreement over its management structure. At a news conference Wednesday evening, Kada apologized for the confusion and said she would speak to Ozawa, whose followers make up most of the party, which was decimated in the Dec. 16 general election. Kada said the party would be split up by next week.

“There has been a lot of confusion, and for that I apologize. Politics are about results, and my leadership was insufficient,” said Kada, who is not in the Diet. “I want to split the party peacefully with Ozawa.”

Although no decision has been made about how the party would be divided or who among Nippon Mirai’s 17 Diet members might join another new Ozawa-led party, Kada promised she and Ozawa would announce their plans “soon.”

The political marriage of convenience between Kada, a former academic and expert on Lake Biwa who was elected to the governor’s office with the help of local citizens’ groups, and Ozawa was one of the strangest pairings in recent political history. Kada was pilloried for it by local supporters, who feared she was in over her head and that running Shiga Prefecture was incompatible with heading a national political party.

That sentiment was shared by the Liberal Democratic Party-led prefectural assembly.

On Wednesday, the assembly passed a resolution criticizing Kada for being an absentee governor since forming her new party and calling on her to stop wearing the hats of both a local and national party leader.

The resolution stopped just short of specifically asking Kada to resign as head of Nippon Mirai. In response, Kada said she would continue to work on behalf of Nippon Mirai but also indicated her official position could soon change.