National / Politics

Hashimoto, Ishihara to break up Nippon Ishin; opposition realignment seen accelerating

by Reiji Yoshida and Ayako Mie

Staff Writers

Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Restoration Party) co-leaders Toru Hashimoto and Shintaro Ishihara agreed Wednesday to split the second-largest opposition party in two — a move that is likely to shake up the political arena and accelerate the realignment of the opposition camp.

Hashimoto, who also serves as Osaka mayor, and Ishihara, a former governor of Tokyo, met in Nagoya. Ishihara proposed the split and Hashimoto consented to the plan, according to Yorihisa Matsuno, secretary-general of the party’s Diet caucus.

Hashimoto had been pushing for Nippon Ishin’s merger with Yui no To, another opposition group, while Ishihara and his followers, known for their nationalistic fervor, had opposed the tie-up.

Ishihara argues that the new platform of a merged group should advocate for the creation of a new Constitution to replace the current pacifist charter, but Yui no To is against the idea, an apparent reason Ishihara pushed for the breakup of Nippon Ishin.

Matsuno told reporters in Tokyo that he had spoken with Hashimoto over the phone and confirmed the split, adding that he had been unable to contact Ishihara, who reportedly is planning to hold a news conference on Thursday.

“If (what was discussed by Hashimoto and Ishihara) becomes true, it would be very regrettable,” Matsuno told reporters.

Nippon Ishin has 53 Diet members in the Lower House, while Yui no To has nine. The Democratic Party of Japan, the biggest opposition force, has 56 Lower House lawmakers and 59 in the Upper House.

Whether a Nippon Ishin-Yui no To merger could create the largest opposition power in the House of Representatives has been the focus of attention for political observers.