Abe sings praises of Hashimoto bid to form party but keeps distance


Staff Writer

Osaka Ishin no Kai (One Osaka) has sounded out former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe as the local political group, founded by Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto, continues to seek allies and supporters to form a national party.

Abe said Wednesday that although Hashimoto and Osaka Ishin no Kai have the power to change Japan, he was not considering formally cooperating in their efforts to field candidates in the next Lower House election.

“I want to think about utilizing the power of Hashimoto and Osaka Ishin no Kai to revise the Constitution and the education system, and we’ve been having discussions on these topics,” Abe said.

The hawkish Abe publicly praised Hashimoto for passing an ordinance in the city assembly earlier this year forcing Osaka teachers to stand and sing the national anthem at school ceremonies and fly the flag at all times. He also supports Hashimoto’s efforts to lower the number of votes needed to make constitutional revisions from two-thirds to a simple majority in both the Lower and Upper houses.

But Abe has indicated he wants to run in the Liberal Democratic Party’s presidential race in September, which complicates any formal commitment to Hashimoto.

LDP members such as current President Sadakazu Tanigaki are wary of Hashimoto. In March, he likened Osaka Ishin no Kai’s attacks on established parties to tactics employed by Hitler and Mussolini.

The appeal to Abe comes as Hashimoto and Osaka Ishin no Kai continue to try to peel off members not only from the LDP but also from the ruling Democratic Party of Japan to form a new national party. They are also seeking to cut deals with politicians including DPJ policy chief Seiji Maehara, who has grown closer to Hashimoto in recent months.

At the same time, Hashimoto is having trouble persuading some of his more high-profile friends to stand for election under the Osaka Ishin no Kai banner. Former Yomiuri Television broadcaster and popular freelance TV celebrity Jiro Shimbo, one of Hashimoto’s oldest allies, has turned down several requests to run.

Speculation is now centered on whether Osaka Ishin no Kai supporters like former Miyazaki Gov. Hideo Higashikokubaru or former Ministry of Trade, Economy, and Industry bureaucrat Shigeaki Koga, a key Hashimoto adviser, might be recruited.