Hashimoto threat to quit helm roils party

by Eric Johnston

Staff Writer

Chaos continued to reign in Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Restoration Party) on Thursday as senior party members moved into damage control mode after Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto threatened Wednesday to resign as the party’s co-leader.

Over the past month, calls have grown within the party for Hashimoto to step down after the July 21 Upper House election, as domestic and international condemnation continues over his remarks in mid-May that Japan’s wartime “comfort women” system was necessary at the time, and that the U.S. military in Okinawa should consider using more sex establishments as a way to reduce sexual assaults.

Earlier this week, Shintaro Ishihara, the party’s other leader who offered initial support for Hashimoto’s views, changed his tune when he realized the damage being done to the party’s Upper House election chances. He called on Hashimoto to apologize, not for the comments but for the embarrassment they have caused.

On Wednesday evening, Hashimoto fired back at Ishihara by threatening to resign as co-head of the party if the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly election on Sunday goes poorly.

“It depends on the results of the Tokyo election. If we don’t receive voter support, there’s no point in continuing (as co-leader),” Hashimoto said.

That announcement set off panic in Nippon Ishin, which has just released its official campaign platform.

“It’s completely unnecessary to resign because of the results of the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly election,” Yorihisa Matsuno, secretary-general of Nippon Ishin’s Diet group, said Thursday, adding that even the Upper House poll results are unrelated to Hashimoto’s position as co-leader.

Toranosuke Katayama, policy chief of Nippon Ishin’s Diet group, added that if Hashimoto quits, it would cause a lot of trouble.

“Nippon Ishin is a party with the strong individual personalities and leadership of Hashimoto and Ishihara,” Katayama said, though he insisted that whatever differences exist between the two leaders can be overcome.

But Nippon Ishin’s popularity, especially in Tokyo and east Japan, is at an all-time low, while in Osaka, Hashimoto supporters and critics say it’s time for him to refocus on local issues.

The spat between Ishihara and Hashimoto, and the controversy over Hashimoto’s comments are a continuation of the rift between Ishihara and the party’s Osaka faction, led by Hashimoto.

  • phu

    I used to believe this kind of ridiculous and counterproductive infighting was just an embarrassing feature of US politics… but with Japan’s growing political stupidity as well as similar idiocy in Europe and extensive failures of government in the middle east and now South America, it’s becoming clear that it’s not just the US: Politicians all over the world appear totally and completely unable (and often unwilling — see Syria, North Korea, etc.) to act in the best interests of their nations.

    This is unforgivable, but it’s also pretty amazing to me that so precious few nations have actually managed to elect effective politicians, or create and foster systems that encourage responsible people to take office and then BE responsible.

    It’s incredibly sad that we as a species haven’t even reached the point where we can govern ourselves effectively, let alone cooperate with others. How are we supposed to solve the problems facing the entire world — many of which we’ve caused and continue to exacerbate — when we can’t even manage to agree on whether or not petty historical revisionism should be apologized for in the context of national elections?

    This is pathetic in its own right, but the worse thing about it is that it’s a pretty accurate summary of politics all over the world: Childish, combative attitudes resulting in suffering international relations and doing absolutely no good for the constituents whose interests should be priority #1.

    • Glen Douglas Brügge

      I think this is often the result of the general apathy and lack of education most human beings have when it comes to politics; we are so easily moved by shallow promises and the flimflam man nature of politicians that we don’t do our homework to try and pick out the diamonds in the rough. If we had a politician with a good, solid plan for economic revival vs. one who promised “free candy for all,” I bet you the majority of any population would vote for the latter. For all our intelligence, human beings are horribly ignorant. We almost relish our ignorance. One only needs to look at the voter turnout for “American Idol” vs. the real elections. We honestly only have ourselves to blame. Hashimoto, in this case, is just throwing a temper tantrum in order to get back at his party.