OSAKA – At its first-ever convention Saturday, Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Restoration Party) introduced 33 candidates for this summer’s Upper House election and a new platform that calls for revising the “Occupation Constitution,” conserving the nation’s “good traditions,” and promoting a society based on regional creativity and free markets.
But with questions surrounding the health of 80-year-old coleader Shintaro Ishihara, who was only released from the hospital Friday more than a month after suffering a minor stroke, and policies similar to the ruling Liberal Democratic Party and the opposition Your Party, Nippon Ishin continues to face confusion about its future among voters, potential candidates and a growing number of its own members.
In its new platform adopted Saturday, Nippon Ishin said it will proudly embrace Japan’s history and culture. “While conserving those traditions that are good, we will create an open society that mutually recognizes diverse values,” the platform says.
Specifically, it calls for action in eight areas. At the top of the list, and heavily pushed by Ishihara and Nippon Ishin Diet head Takeo Hiranuma, is a pledge to substantially revise what the party calls the Occupation Constitution, a reference to the belief among its members that the current Constitution was forced on Japan by the United States during the postwar Occupation.
In a video conference with Ishihara in Tokyo, he and Nippon Ishin cochief Toru Hashimoto discussed the Constitution and the need for revision. Drafted by the U.S.-led Occupation with input from the Japanese government, the Constitution was approved by the Diet and went into effect in 1947.
“What’s important is that we ensure that the ruling coalition does not win a majority (in the Upper House). But just because we’re an opposition party doesn’t mean we’re going to oppose everything,” Hashimoto said. “Revising the Constitution, especially Article 96, which requires constitutional amendments be approved by a two-thirds supermajority, is crucial.”
Other previous Nippon Ishin goals including greater regionalization and educational reform remain unchanged.
One new addition is a pledge to re-establish trust and cooperation between different generations of workers, especially between older employees who are soon to retire and the younger generation of part-timers who grew up after the collapse of the bubble economy more than two decades ago.
However, closing the generation gap within Nippon Ishin itself is proving a tough challenge. Public arguments between Hashimoto, 43, who also serves as Osaka mayor, and Nippon Ishin’s Diet members led by Ishihara ally Hiranuma, 73, have created the image of a divided party. The 33 candidates introduced Saturday to run in July’s House of Councilors election were far less than the party had originally hoped.
At the same time, Hashimoto is stepping up his overtures to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and spent much of his opening address to the convention praising Abe’s leadership, especially his handling of the U.S. Futenma air base’s relocation within Okinawa. But he also said Nippon Ishin needs to show voters how it differs from Abe’s LDP.
“My praise is for Abe, not the LDP. We’ll show voters how our policies are different,” Hashimoto said.
Asked about Ishihara’s future role in the party amid worries over his health, Hashimoto said the former Tokyo governor would continue his work and that he was at “full power” Saturday. In the video conference, Ishihara told the convention he felt “99 percent” back to normal.