Ishin no To (Japan Innovation Party), the second largest opposition party, is on the brink of disintegration once again as a confrontation between its Osaka-based and Tokyo-based members intensified Wednesday.
Osaka Gov. Ichiro Matsui, one of the two party founders and now a special adviser to the party, threatened to quit his position unless party secretary-general Mito Kakizawa resigns immediately.
Matsui told reporters in Osaka that he is ready to submit a letter of resignation Thursday unless Kakizawa steps down. He also claimed Osaka Mayor Toru Hahshimoto, the other party founder and longtime ally of Matsui’s, is likewise ready to quit as supreme party adviser.
Matsui and Hashimoto have already formed a separate political group called Kansai Ishin no Kai, trying to attract Ishin no To members based in the Kansai region, particularly those in Osaka.
The party has been deeply split between its Osaka-based members who are willing to cooperate with the administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, and Tokyo-based members who are trying to remain in the opposition camp in the hopes it will help them survive the next election.
Matsui and Hashimoto have criticized Kakizawa for supporting a candidate backed by the Japanese Communist Party who is running in the Sept. 13 mayoral election in the city of Yamagata.
In response, Kakizawa argued that he has not violated party rules because Ishin has not decided to field or to support any particular candidate in the election.
“I don’t think I should quit over an issue like this,” Kakizawa told reporters in Tokyo on Wednesday.
Diet members in the party held a closed-door general meeting at the Diet building on Wednesday, where some demanded that Kakizawa resign while others defended him, according to those who attended.
After the meeting, party president Yorihisa Matsuno told reporters that party executives will decide whether Kakizawa should resign or not and announce the decision by noon on Thursday.
“If no one resigns, it will be the best,” Matsuno said.
A former Democratic Party of Japan member, Matsuno is believed to be a leader of the Tokyo-based party members who wish to remain in the opposition camp.
Matsuno said Kakizawa has not violated any party rules, adding that he is wondering if “this is anything worth the resignation of a secretary-general.”
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