National / Politics

Hashimoto to resign as co-leader of Ishin no To

by Reiji Yoshida

Staff Writer

Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto reportedly plans to resign as co-leader of Ishin no To (Japan Innovation Party) to focus on local elections in the spring, a move likely to further weaken the party’s clout at the national level.

Ishin no To Secretary-General Ichiro Matsui plans to step down as well. Party members are urging the two to make a public promise to return to their posts after the local elections, media reports said Tuesday.

Party executives planned to meet in the afternoon in Tokyo, to be followed a general assembly of the party’s members in the Diet later in the day.

Matsui and Yorihisa Matsuno, head of the party’s Diet members, were expected to speak to reporters following the general assembly.

“We’d like to stay in Osaka and focus on (activities) there. (Party) posts don’t matter for us,” Matsui told reporters in Osaka on Monday. The comment appeared to suggest resignations were imminent.

It is not the first time the pair have expressed their intention to withdraw from national politics.

In July 2013, Hashimoto and Matsui told party executives that they wanted to step down from heading Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Restoration Party), the predecessor of Ishin no To, but were persuaded by members to stay.

Hashimoto appears to be losing his passion for national politics. Earlier this year, internal strife resulted in Nippon Ishin no Kai splitting into Ishin no To and Jisedai no To (Party of Future Generations).

Jisedai no To suffered a crushing defeat in the Dec. 14 Lower House election, when only two of its 48 candidates won seats in the 475-seat chamber.

Meanwhile Ishin no To fielded 84 candidates and won 42 seats, down one from its pre-election strength.

“Neither I nor the party gained the confidence (of voters),” Hashimoto told a Dec. 14 news conference following the election.

Nippon Ishin no Kai, founded by Hashimoto in September 2012, was once considered a hopeful “third force” in politics and won 54 seats in the Lower House election in December 2012.

But the popularity of both the party and Hashimoto himself declined over the year, and its split further reduced his clout in national politics.