After months of wrangling, Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Restoration Party) and Yui no To (Unity Party) finally launched a new political entity on Sunday, aiming to accelerate the realignment of the opposition camp to challenge the ruling coalition.
The newly merged party, named Ishin no To (Japan Innovation Party), is co-headed by Osaka Mayor and former Nippon Ishin co-leader Toru Hashimoto and Yui no To chief Kenji Eda.
With 52 Diet members, 41 in the House of Representatives and 11 in the House of Councilors, it will be the second-largest opposition group in the lower chamber after the Democratic Party of Japan.
“The administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is sailing along smoothly . . . but we must create a strong opposition party to press the ruling coalition” led by the Liberal Democratic Party, Hashimoto said during a gathering to celebrate Ishin no To’s launch at a hotel in Tokyo. “We formed Ishin no To with a pledge to mobilize reform-minded people.”
Calling the merger just a step toward a broader realignment, the two leaders called on members of other opposition parties to cooperate.
“We must get together with like-minded people from the other parties, such as the Democratic Party of Japan and Your Party. Otherwise we will not be able to challenge the Abe government,” Eda said.
But Hashimoto stressed that the new party will also support the ruling camp on policies that match Ishin no To’s platform and benefit the people. “We should not become an opposition party that simply . . . talks about unrealistic fantasies,” Hashimoto said.
Ishin no To’s policies include constitutional revision, structural reforms to benefit local governments, phasing out nuclear power and the promotion of natural energy sources. It has not, however, set any specific date for eliminating atomic power from Japan’s energy mix.
Hashimoto and Eda also criticized what they termed the current centralization and bureaucrat-led nature of national politics, stressing the need to empower local governments.
“Regional matters should be decided by each region. It can not be done by the LDP because the party has too many close ties (to big business),” Eda said.
Earlier this month, Hashimoto and Eda agreed to set up two head offices for Ishin no To, one in Osaka and the other in Tokyo. They also agreed to maintain a dual leadership structure for the first year of the party’s existence, but to select only one head from then on.