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Nippon Ishin gunning for Kansai domination

by Eric Johnston

Staff Writer

Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Restoration Party) is moving forward with plans not only to field candidates nationwide in this summer’s Upper House election but also run against Kansai politicians who oppose its efforts to create a new regional system.

“We’re making preparations to field candidates (for the Upper House election) in all 47 prefectures. But we’ve said Hyogo Prefecture is one prefecture in which we need to establish ourselves quickly,” Nippon Ishin Secretary General and Osaka Gov. Ichiro Matsui said.

The Hyogo branch will be established by the end of March. Hideto Shinbara, 50, will head the chapter, while Kei Miki, 46, has been appointed its secretary general and Mio Sugita, 45, the policy chief. All three are Nippon Ishin proportional representatives in the Lower House.

In addition, Matsui and Osaka mayor Toru Hashimoto have announced that the chapter will be responsible for supporting a Nippon Ishin candidate in the Hyogo gubernatorial election, which must also be held this summer. Nippon Ishin is also looking at fielding candidates for the Kobe mayoral election expected in November.

The move to set up a Nippon Ishin Hyogo branch was not unexpected, as relations between Hyogo Gov. Toshizo Ido and Hashimoto in particular are bad. The two have long publicly criticized each other over not only the regional system, a key Nippon Ishin goal that Ido opposes, but also closing Osaka’s Itami Airport, which straddles the border between Osaka and Hyogo prefectures.

Hashimoto wants to close the airport to increase business at Kansai International Airport. He has suggested Itami could be turned into an international zone, with international schools, businesses and foreign consulates.

In addition, Ido is perceived as being close to Kansai Electric Power Co., which Hashimoto has long criticized.

Currently in his third term, Ido, 67, has not yet indicated whether he will run in the July election. Hashimoto and Matsui are pushing hard to have him replaced.