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Nippon Ishin to stay out of mayor poll

by Eric Johnston

Staff Writer

Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Restoration Party) will officially stay out of the March 23 Osaka mayoral snap election, which its co-leader, Mayor Toru Hashimoto, forced earlier this month after he resigned to protest opposition in the municipal assembly toward merging Osaka’s municipal and prefectural governments on his schedule.

Hashimoto has told senior party leaders that this was a personal campaign. Party leaders are expected to vote Saturday to allow the election to be officially endorsed only by Osaka Ishin no Kai (One Osaka), the local political group founded by Hashimoto and Osaka Gov. Ichiro Matsui, who also serves as Nippon Ishin’s secretary-general.

Nippon Ishin, which grew out of Hashimoto’s and Matsui’s efforts with Osaka Ishin, is an authorized national political party, while Osaka Ishin is not.

Nippon Ishin’s decision to not officially endorse the election, which kicks off March 9, means most of the party’s Diet members, including co-leader Shintaro Ishihara, will not visit Osaka to stump on behalf of Hashimoto. Only about a dozen Nippon Ishin members, representing districts in the city of and prefecture of Osaka are expected to be involved with the campaign.

Nippon Ishin leaders, especially Ishihara, have criticized Hashimoto’s decision to resign. While the mayor says he’s running again to put voter pressure on the city assembly to allow the Osaka merger question to go to a public referendum in the fall, Ishihara noted that, as all political parties in the assembly except Osaka Ishin are currently opposed to the plan, the election will not change anything.

For their part, many Osaka Ishin officials are happy Ishihara is not visiting Osaka, as strains between his and Hashimoto’s factions are threatening to break it apart. Hashimoto is expected to easily win re-election. All major parties have said they do not plan to field candidates and Hashimoto’s popularity, while falling, is still strong.