OSAKA – More than 30 members of Ishin no To (Japan Innovation Party) gathered in Osaka on Saturday to hash out differences in opinions over three security bills proposed by the party’s Diet members.
Tensions are high within the party over what the proposed bills should contain. Lawmakers plan to present them to the government as alternatives to the bills currently under discussion.
Hastily arranged, Saturday’s meeting was attended by Ishin no To leader Yorihisa Matsuno and Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto, who cofounded the party and serves as its top adviser.
Hashimoto criticized the lawmakers’ proposals as being too vague on what constitutes self-defense. He was also concerned that the proposals did not sufficiently emphasize the need for Japan’s defense, as opposed to that of other nations, and argued that the role of the Diet in responding to security threats should be spelled out more clearly and strengthened. He also said the limits of rear-area support should be defined more clearly.
In the end, Ishin sources said, Hashimoto agreed to the broad outline of the bills and to leave their introduction to the Diet leadership. The current schedule calls for party leaders to rework the current bills on Tuesday, the penultimate day of the current Diet session.
“Hashimoto expressed his concerns about the content of our bills. Those concerns will be taken into consideration when all party members meet next week, and we’ll discuss revisions then. No final decisions were made today, however, on what to revise or how to revise,” Ishin Secretary General designate Jiro Ono said following the meeting.
There was also concern among party members that Hashimoto and Osaka Gov. Ichiro Matsui, an adviser to the party who is also close to many within the Liberal Democratic Party, might have been leaning toward pushing Ishin to cooperate with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on the coalition-backed bills now being discussed in the Diet.
Those worries were heightened after Hashimoto and Matsui visited Abe and the powerful Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga on June 14 in Tokyo.
Over the course of the week, public spats erupted between Hashimoto and Diet members, especially party leader Matsuno, over how Ishin was handling the debate over the wording of its security proposal.
Many in the Osaka faction of the party insisted that it was still basically Hashimoto’s party, and that he needed to be consulted.
But some lawmakers who joined Ishin from other parties wanted minimal input from him, saying that since he was not a Diet member he did not understand lawmaking at the national level.
The Abe-Hashimoto meeting has also set off speculation that the Osaka mayor is contemplating only a temporary retirement from politics, after last month saying he said would quit politics when his term as mayor ends about six months from now.
Options that seem open to him are a role as a nonelected adviser, as a member of Abe’s Cabinet, or standing in next summer’s Upper House poll.