With several polls indicating that the ruling coalition may win over 300 of the 480 seats in Sunday’s Lower House race, the Liberal Democratic Party is poised to be the big winner — and Ishin no To (Japan Innovation Party) the main loser.
Ishin no To co-leaders Toru Hashimoto, who also serves as mayor of Osaka, and Kenji Eda, a Lower House representative from the Kanagawa No. 8 district, know they are facing a tough election.
The party only formally came into being in September, after months of difficult negotiations between the two leaders. Hashimoto had previously co-led Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Restoration Party) with Shintaro Ishihara, and Eda had headed Yui no To (Unity Party) after breaking away from Your Party.
This year has been particularly difficult for Hashimoto. His grand plan to merge Osaka city and prefecture has collapsed due to opposition from local chapters of the LDP and his nominal coalition partner Komeito, which Hashimoto has berated as betraying its 2012 campaign pledges.
Komeito, Ishin no To believed, had promised to support Hashimoto’s plan in the municipal and prefectural assemblies in exchange for his support of Komeito’s single-seat Diet candidates.
Angry at Komeito, Hashimoto called a snap mayoral election in March in an attempt to rally public support to his merger plan and put pressure on the LDP and Komeito.
In an unusual move, the LDP, Komeito, the Democratic Party of Japan and the Japan Communist Party all agreed not to field candidates. This quickly turned the campaign into a joke, with the mayor easily beating three independents, including one who wore ballerina and superhero costumes and suggested the remedy for Osaka’s ills was “smile therapy.”
Ishin no To, which had 42 seats in the Lower House, is fielding 84 candidates. This includes 27 in the six prefectures — Shiga, Nara, Kyoto, Hyogo, Osaka, and Wakayama — that make up the Kinki region, where the Hashimoto faction is strongest, and 15 in the Tokyo-Kanagawa area, where Eda is most popular.
But many of the candidates face troubling prospects.
A poll of voters in Kinki taken in earlier this month by JNN and the Mainichi Shimbun showed Ishin, which had 19 seats in those six prefectures, could end up with between seven and 10. The LDP, on the other hand, could end up with between 40 and 50 seats in Kinki, up from 31.
Even worse, especially for the Hashimoto faction, is that candidates in Osaka are predicted to lose big. Ishin has a candidate in 14 of Osaka’s 19 single-seat districts. Local media polls show at least eight are likely to lose, and another four face uphill battles.
“Voters in Osaka are upset with Hashimoto and the party, so the LDP, and perhaps the Democratic Party of Japan, may do well,” says Yuji Yoshitomi, a local freelance journalist who covers Osaka politics.
Ishin’s platform is largely unchanged from 2012. It remains a mixture of populist proposals and corporate-driven privatization schemes. The party proposes to cut Diet members’ allowances by 30 percent, and to cut 1 in 3 seats in the Diet. In addition, the party has promised to cut civil servant salaries to bring them in line with private firms.
“By making these cuts, and by cutting salaries of national and local civil servants by 20 percent, we can realize ¥5 trillion in savings,” Hashimoto told voters on Dec. 2, the day the campaign kicked off.
Ishin’s one new privatization scheme is a promise to sell off the government’s holdings of stock in Japan Tobacco, NTT, Japan Post Holdings, the Development Bank of Japan and the Japan Bank for International Cooperation. Doing so, Ishin says, will add ¥25 trillion to the national treasury.
In addition, there are pledges to toughen accounting standards and keep better track of government expenses. There is also much talk about the importance of local autonomy.
The party favors the setting up of casino resorts and participation in the Trans-Pacific Partnership. It wants to “fade out” nuclear power (though by when, it does not say) and is opposed to restarting reactors until Japan decides on a place for final waste storage.
In terms of international relations, Ishin is calling for a new law to strengthen protection of the Senkaku Islands, which controlled by Japan but also claimed by China, and the Ogasawara Islands, where Chinese fishing boats have been poaching red coral. On other questions, like collective self-defense, the party’s position is almost the same as that of the ruling coalition.
In a time of both misinformation and too much information, quality journalism is more crucial than ever.
By subscribing, you can help us get the story right.