OSAKA – Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto’s new national political party, expected to be launched next month, will pursue the same basic neoliberal economic and structural reform policies as those of Ishin no To (Japan Innovation Party).
Expected to consist of over 20 Ishin members — both Diet and local assembly lawmakers — from Osaka and elsewhere in the Kansai region, the first basic policy planks of the new party are slowly emerging.
These include promises to work for decentralization at a time when the declining population and low birthrate are cause for major concern as well as a push to integrate the Osaka city and prefectural governments.
In addition, the new party will seek to revise the Constitution to allow the direct election of the prime minister and to eliminate the Upper House.
Hashimoto, who co-founded Ishin before announcing a split from the party last month, rose to power in Osaka by promising economic reforms that focused on cuts to welfare services and the privatization of public services.
The new party will promise government support for the “seriously weaker” members of society and to work for a more flexible labor market that makes it easier to switch jobs.
One of the fundamental problems that wracked Ishin is that it was comprised of two factions, the Osaka (Hashimoto) branch with a dozen or so Osaka and Kansai Diet members, and the non-Osaka faction led by former Democratic Party of Japan member Yorihisa Matsuno.
The party’s structure meant there were two offices, one in Osaka, where Hashimoto and Osaka Gov. Ichiro Matsui were in charge, and the other in Tokyo, creating communications problems and mistrust between the factions.
The new party’s exact structure has yet to be announced. The current plan calls for an organization that is more decentralized than the established parties.
The basic outline of the new party is taking shape as Hashimoto’s future political career continues to be the subject of much speculation.
On Sunday, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who is close to Hashimoto and Matsui on the issues of education and constitutional revision, said on a local TV program it is possible that Hashimoto will run for a Diet seat in next summer’s Upper House election.
Following the May defeat of the Osaka city merger referendum, Hashimoto announced his retirement from politics. But last week, in reply to his future plans, he avoided making comments.