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Behind-the-scenes maneuvering in Osaka to create a new national political party and secure candidates for November’s mayoral and gubernatorial elections continued in Osaka last week, with speculation growing that Mayor Toru Hashimoto will seek to run in next summer’s Upper House poll.

The mayor, who heads the local Osaka Ishin no Kai (One Osaka) political party and was a co-founder of Ishin no To (Japan Innovation Party), replied to a question Thursday about whether he’d stand for a seat in the Upper House by saying it was a decision for the future. He has no plans to run in the Nov. 22 mayoral poll.

On the other hand, pressure is growing on Osaka Gov. Ichiro Matsui to stand for re-election. Matsui is also expected to play a leadership role in the new Osaka and Kansai-centered national party expected to be formed next month. The name of the new party is the basis of much discussion.

Suggestions so far include “Osaka Ishin no kai,” with “Osaka” in hiragana rather than kanji like the party of local Osaka politicians. Others want “Kansai Ishin no kai,” in order to reflect the broader region. Still others prefer no geographical reference at all, out of fears it could be seen as too limiting.

After a meeting in Osaka on Saturday attended by about 17 local assembly members from the Kansai region, Osaka Ishin prefectural assemblyman Yutaka Imai said the other Kansai members agreed to work together toward the formation of the new party.

Saturday’s gathering came a day after Prime Minister Shinzo Abe paid a visit to Osaka to appear on a local TV program. Though he did not meet with Hashimoto or Matsui, the move was seen as sending a message of support to both for a new party.

While Osakans will chose a new governor and mayor on Nov. 22, the latter race is the one expected to most likely determine the fate of the new national party and Hashimoto’s political future.

Matsui is the clear favorite in the governor’s race, should he decide to run. But Hashimoto has yet to find a strong candidate with broad public recognition to succeed him. Ishin no To’s Hidetaka Inoue, a Lower House lawmaker, is currently seen as the strongest candidate.

The loss of the mayor’s seat to one of the established parties would be a major setback for Hashimoto and Matsui. A loss of the mayor’s seat to a non-Ishin candidate to an established party-backed candidate would be major setback for Hashimoto and Matsui

The Liberal Democratic Party’s Osaka chapter is finalizing plans to field Akira Yanagimoto, who is a member of the Osaka Municipal Assembly and the nephew of Upper House LDP member Takuji Yanagimoto.

Prior to May’s Osaka merger referendum, the younger Yanagimoto emerged as the public face of local LDP opposition, joining Komeito, the Democratic Party of Japan and the Japan Communist Party at public rallies against Ishin. The referendum was defeated by about 10,000 votes.

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