Ishihara targets over 100 seats in next Lower House election


Tokyo’s former governor, Shintaro Ishihara, on Sunday set a target of seizing more than 100 seats in the next general election, providing he can form a political group strong enough to challenge the ruling and largest opposition parties.

“Of course I would like to win over 100” of the Lower House’s 480 seats in the next national vote, Ishihara, who plans to found a new political party by incorporating minor opposition groups, said during a TV show.

To that end, the former governor hopes to woo Tachiagare Nippon (Sunrise Party of Japan) and Your Party, and is also hoping to join hands with Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto’s Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Restoration Party) in the runup to the next Lower House election, which must be held by next summer.

Following his sudden resignation as governor, Ishihara met with Hashimoto and Tachiagare Nippon chief Takeo Hiranuma on Saturday in the city of Kyoto and urged them to accelerate efforts to create a “third force” able to compete with the ruling Democratic Party of Japan and the Liberal Democratic Party, the leading opposition group.

The three agreed to continue talks for the time being on possible ways Nippon Ishin no Kai, Tachiagare Nippon and Ishihara’s envisaged party could cooperate the next time the nation goes to the polls.

However, Hashimoto voiced reluctance to forge closer ties with Tachiagare Nippon during the meeting, citing key policy differences on nuclear power and the planned consumption tax hike.

The mayor is apparently still willing to work closely with Ishihara on a personal level, but Ishihara said Sunday that his talks with Hashimoto had “not been substantive,” as the two remain divided over the future of atomic energy and other major policy areas.

Article 9 to be put on trial


The ruling Democratic Party of Japan’s policy chief believes that whether to revise the Constitution’s war-renouncing Article 9 will probably be a prominent campaign issue in the next general election.

“Whether to approve of more than half a century of postwar caution toward security affairs, or challenge this approach, as advocated by former Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara and Liberal Democratic Party chief Shinzo Abe,” will be a fundamental topic during the next Lower House election, Goshi Hosono said Saturday on a television program.

Hosono, who chairs the DPJ’s Policy Research Committee, also cautioned Ishihara against making what could be viewed in some quarters as derogatory remarks about China.

“It is a politician’s role not to whip up nationalism,” he cautioned.

Ishihara abruptly resigned as Tokyo governor last week to set up and head a new political party, in a bid to take on the DPJ and the main opposition Liberal Democratic Party in the next national polls.

No quick election in offing


Democratic Party of Japan Secretary General Azuma Koshiishi on Sunday rejected opposition calls for the next Lower House election to be held by Dec. 16.

Speaking on a TV program, Koshiishi said it would be difficult for the ruling DPJ to schedule a general election this year, adding the current extraordinary Diet session that runs through Nov. 30 should focus on crucial pending legislation.

His remarks are a further signal of the DPJ’s resolve to strive to reduce vote-value disparities in Lower House constituencies and enact a bill that would allow the government to issue deficit-covering bonds to finance the current fiscal budget before going to the polls.

Koshiishi also voiced resistance to demands from the Liberal Democratic Party and New Komeito, the largest opposition groups, to hold another trilateral meeting between their leaders and Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda, who serves as DPJ president.

It would be preferable for the party chiefs to hold one-on-one debates in the Diet, Koshiishi argued.

In previous three-way leadership talks in October, LDP President Shinzo Abe and New Komeito head Natsuo Yamaguchi stopped short of pledging cooperation on the vote-value disparity issue and the passage of the bond-issuance bill in the Diet because of Noda’s refusal to state a specific timing for dissolving the Lower House for a snap election.

On the TV program, Abe said a general election must be held by Dec. 16 to give a new government enough time to draw up a draft budget for fiscal 2013, which starts in April, and called on Noda to clarify his intentions this week on a dissolution of the House of Representatives.

To allow for the necessary preparations to hold a general election this year, the Lower House should be dissolved by Nov. 22, Abe added.

Meanwhile, New Komeito’s Yamaguchi agreed that it would make sense to swiftly dissolve the lower chamber, but called for an election to be held around Dec. 9.