National / Politics

Heads roll as Matsuno shakes up Ishin no To leadership

by Reiji Yoshida

Staff Writer

Yorihisa Matsuno, head of Ishin no To (Japan Innovation Party), has sacked three of the party’s four top executives, a move likely to accelerate the unfolding disintegration process of the nation’s second-largest opposition force.

Among the three to get the ax Tuesday were Nobuyuki Baba, Ishin’s Diet affairs chief from Osaka, and Executive Council Chairman Toranosuke Katayama, who also serves as the head of the party’s Upper House caucus.

The two had expressed their intention to leave the party soon and join Osaka Ishin no Kai, a local party led by Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto.

Baba has also opposed launching a no-confidence motion against the Cabinet of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, even though Matsuno has said that Ishin would vote for such a motion if one is proposed in the Diet.

“I have made the personnel changes so that we can remain united” in handling Diet affairs, Matsuno told a news conference at the Diet on Tuesday.

Ishin no To has been deeply divided between Osaka-based lawmakers who are willing to support Abe’s Cabinet and Tokyo-based lawmakers who prefer siding with other opposition parties.

Many of the Osaka-based members are expected to eventually leave Ishin and join Hashimoto’s new party.

Matsuno also replaced Secretary-General Mito Kakizawa with Masato Imai, Ishin’s policy chief.

Matsuno tapped Yoshio Maki, a Lower House member from Aichi Prefecture, as the new Diet affairs chief; Jiro Ono from Yamanashi Prefecture as Executive Council chairman; and Nobuhiko Isaka from Hyogo Prefecture as new policy chief.

Matsuno said he appointed the new executives so the party leadership can remain “monolithic” despite recent internal strife.

Matsuno didn’t explain the reason for Kakizawa’s dismissal.

Kakizawa, who supported a candidate backed by other opposition parties in the recent mayoral election in the city of Yamagata, has been criticized for triggering an internal struggle between Osaka- and Tokyo-based party members.