Hashimoto tries to get regional ducks in a row for poll


Staff Writer

Members of Osaka-based Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Restoration Party) fanned out across the country this week, seeking to drum up support and establish regional organizations that can field candidates under the party’s umbrella in the election.

The move came as Nippon Ishin no Kai head Toru Hashimoto expressed a desire to tie up with Shintaro Ishihara, but not with members of Tachiagare Nippon (Sunrise Party), who are widely expected to join the party Ishihara is planning to launch.

“It’s not necessary (to tie up with Tachiagare Nippon). Their party is a different color from ours, and I feel there is a policy and generation gap,” Hashimoto said Thursday, although he did not rule out discussing the possibility.

Hashimoto’s rebuff of Tachiagare Nippon came just a couple of days after Nippon Ishin no Kai signed an election cooperation agreement with a group led by Okayama Municipal Assembly member Akihiko Kumashiro.

Okayama Ishin no Kai is the second local political group to sign a formal pact with Hashimoto after a similar group in Kyoto did so in mid-October, and is seen as a possible challenge to Tachiagare Nippon head Takeo Hiranuma, who is from Okayama.

In Shikoku, Nippon Ishin no Kai members visited Matsuyama, Ehime Prefecture, on Tuesday and announced plans to field four candidates in Ehime. Both Ehime Gov. Tokihiro Nakamura and Matsuyama Mayor Katsuhito Noshi are friends of Hashimoto, and Ishin no Kai is expected to win at least a couple of seats there.

Ishin no Kai members also visited Fukui and Ishikawa prefectures. Last month, four students from Ishikawa studying at Hashimoto’s political school formed Ishikawa Ishin no Kai. At this point, however, they have no political support and have not yet met the requirements for a formal cooperation agreement.

Any local group wanting Hashimoto’s support must first agree to 14 points, including support for creating a regional government system, reducing the number of Diet seats and participating in the Trans-Pacific Partnership free-trade pact, although there is some question as to whether Nippon Ishin no Kai might be satisfied with a group simply supporting TPP negotiations with an eye toward joining.

Hashimoto’s party faces a hard road in Fukui. Nippon Ishin no Kai plans to form a local group, but one of its promises is to end nuclear power, which Ishihara actually opposes, and there is serious discussion on doing so by the 2030s. This could prove to be a tough sell in Fukui Prefecture, with its 14 commercial reactors, especially in towns receiving more than half of their annual budgets in the form of central government subsidies for hosting nuclear facilities.