OSAKA – Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Restoration Party) is losing popularity and its disarray is putting its survival beyond year’s end in doubt, party coleader and Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto said, groping for ways to keep his group relevant and subtly different from the ruling Liberal Democratic Party.
Facing reporters Monday, Hashimoto sought to slightly contrast his views with those of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, the LDP leader, over the 1995 government statement apologizing for Japan’s role as aggressor in the war. He also said the LDP’s push to amend the Constitution would take power away from elected authority, calling this a dangerous gambit, which he didn’t elaborate on.
On April 23, Abe said in the Diet that neither academia nor the international community have established a definition for aggression. The remarks prompted angry responses from South Korea and China, and in Washington, the U.S. State Department informally complained to the Japanese Embassy that the comment would affect Japan’s ties with its neighbors.
“Even if there is no strict definition of aggressor in the academic sense, we have to accept that, as a result of Japan’s defeat, it was aggression (on Japan’s part),” Hashimoto said. In a move sure to cause controversy with those in his own party, he also said that the “comfort women” system was necessary but that Japan should reflect on and apologize for the damage and pain caused to females across Asia who were turned into sex slaves.
Nippon Ishin in recent days has been in crisis. At a Saturday meeting of its core political group, Osaka Ishin no Kai (One Osaka), Hashimoto said Nippon Ishin had to do more if it expected to do well in the July Upper House election.
“Unless we take steps that leave an impression, voters will turn away. It’s possible we could be extinct by year’s end,” he said.
The comment follows media polls showing Nippon Ishin’s nationwide support rate down to under 10 percent, and members’ growing fear that the party has lost its way. As calls mount in and out of Nippon Ishin for the party to return to its roots as a local power focused on regional issues, tensions between Hashimoto and the party’s Tokyo faction, led by coleader Shintaro Ishihara, have led both to declare Nippon Ishin on borrowed time.