/

Hashimoto rules out running in Upper House election

by Eric Johnston

Staff Writer

Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto, coleader of Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Restoration Party), said again Friday that he won’t run in this summer’s Upper House election, saying his power as a Diet member would be so limited that all he’d be able to do is hang out at ramen stands.

“Even if I became a Diet member, I couldn’t get any work done. I’d be shut inside the Diet lodgings, only venturing outside for ramen or soba noodles,” Hashimoto said on his Twitter account, a day after he told reporters in Osaka he won’t run.

If Hashimoto were to change his mind, it would require him first resigning as mayor, meaning another costly mayoral election would have to be held in July, less than two years after the previous election, a move that would anger the city’s taxpayers.

Hashimoto’s latest denial to run for the Upper House election came as the Nippon Ishin leadership crisis deepens.

Conflicts between Hashimoto and his Osaka followers on one side and party coleader Shintaro Ishihara and his Diet allies on the other over national policy continue to make headlines.

Earlier this week, Ishihara, a Lower House member, warned Nippon Ishin members that unlike the situation prior to last December’s Lower House election, their party is no longer an ascending dragon. Echoing the language of Nippon Ishin’s critics, Ishihara expressed concern about the lack of an Upper House campaign strategy by saying the party’s expiration date is fast approaching.

Other party members are more worried about Ishihara’s role in the poll. Party leaders say they don’t want to overtax him.

But the real fear of many party members is that Ishihara will prove more of a liability than an asset, especially in front of the TV cameras, where he might make off-the-cuff statements contradicting Hashimoto or Matsui.