Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto, who quit Ishin no To (Japan Innovation Party) last week, will form his new national party by the end of October, with 12 Ishin Diet members based in Osaka expected to join, media reports said Sunday.
Members who will join the new party will hold a news conference on Oct. 1 and will encourage other Diet members to follow them and join by Oct. 20, the reports said, quoting unnamed party sources.
Hashimoto made the proposal during a meeting with Osaka-based Diet members at a hotel in the city of Izumisano on Saturday. No objections were raised, the reports said.
Ishin no To, the nation’s second-largest opposition party, currently has 51 Diet members, including the 12 Osaka-based lawmakers.
On Thursday, Hashimoto sent an email to all Ishin Diet members, urging them to avoid dividing the party due to an internal struggle between Osaka-based and Tokyo-based Diet members.
But later the same day, Hashimoto told Osaka-based Diet members that he will form a new national party based on Osaka Ishin no Kai, Hashimoto’s local party now consisting of members from the Osaka municipal and prefectural assemblies.
Hashimoto, who stepped down from Ishin no To on Thursday, is still president of Osaka Ishin no Kai, and Osaka Gov. Ichiro Matsui serves as secretary-general.
All 12 Ishin no To Diet members based in Osaka are now expected to leave the party and join Osaka Ishin no Kai, which Hashimoto envisions will be transformed into a national party.
During a speech delivered Saturday on a street in Hirakata, Osaka Prefecture, Hashimoto said Osaka Ishin no Kai will field many candidates for the Diet in areas “from Hokkaido to Kyushu” in a next election, according to Kyodo News.
If many Osaka Ishin no Kai members are successful in being elected in next summer’s Upper House election, it will give momentum to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s drive to revise the postwar Constitution.
To initiate a national referendum to revise any article of the Constitution, support of two-thirds or more of the lawmakers in both the upper and lower chambers is required. Hashimoto has said he is willing to cooperate with Abe in revising the Constitution.
Meanwhile, the looming breakup of Ishin no To will give momentum to Tokyo-based Diet members trying create a big party that would combine opposition lawmakers from various parties, including those from Ishin no To and the Democratic Party of Japan, the largest opposition force.
Ishin no To President Yorihisa Matsuno is a former DPJ member and has strong connections with many key DPJ executives, including DPJ President Katsuya Okada.
A local referendum in May voted down Hashimoto’s key policy proposal to merge and consolidate the Osaka municipal and prefectural governments, which prompted Hashimoto to pledge to retire from politics when his term as Osaka mayor ends on Dec. 18.
But in recent weeks Hashimoto has become politically active again and said his last mission as a politician is to field and support candidates for the Osaka mayoral and gubernatorial elections, set to be held on Nov. 22.
A revised version of the Osaka merger proposal will be a key campaign platform of the two candidates who Hashimoto will back, media reports said.