/

Ishihara says new party will boast at least 22 Diet members

by Reiji Yoshida

Staff Writer

Former Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara said Wednesday he will launch a new party with at least with 21 other Diet members at the end of July.

At a news conference, the 81-year-old co-leader of Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Restoration Party) did not elaborate on what the new party’s policy platform might look like. But it is expected to be more right-leaning and nationalistic than the ruling Liberal Democratic Party led by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

Aside from Ishihara, the 22 founding members of the new party include former Suginami Ward chief Hiroshi Yamada, who has denied that the Japanese authorities forced any Asian women to work as “comfort women” in a wartime brothel system, and former education minister Nariaki Nakayama, who has claimed that the 1937 Nanking Massacre by the Imperial Japanese Army never happened.

Other members include former Yokohama Mayor Hiroshi Nakada, former transport minister Takao Fujii, and Lower House member Takeo Hiranuma, a longtime ally of Ishinara.

All of the 22 are currently members of Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Restoration Party), the third largest party that is to be split into two, with one entity led by Ishihara and the other centered around Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto.

All 62 of the Nippon Ishin lawmakers have been asked to join either the Ishihara or Hashimoto group by Thursday evening.

Whether Ishihara will serve as the president of the new party remained unclear as of Wednesday, amid speculation that he may retire rather than run in the next Lower House election.

Ishihara suffered what he described as a “not-very-serious” stroke last year.

Asked whether he will take the top post of the new party, Ishihara replied, “That’s a matter to be decided later.

“I really feel refreshed . . . I’d be happy if we can create a stir in Japanese politics, although the road we chose is one with much difficulty,” Ishihara said. “We want to put into practice the real ‘conservatism,’ or ‘new conservatism,’” he sad.

According to Fumiki Sakurauchi, another founding member of the new group, the key words for the new party are “new conservatism,” “independence,” and “new generations.”

“New conservatism” means a reform-minded conservatism, “independence” means more independence of the state, local government and individuals, and “new generations” signals the party’s emphasis on younger generations and the future of Japan, Sakurauchi said.