National / Politics

Kibo no To and Nippon Ishin no Kai agree not to directly challenge each other in Tokyo and Osaka city districts

by Eric Johnston

Staff Writer

Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike and Osaka Gov. Ichiro Matsui agreed Saturday that her new Kibo no To (Party of Hope) and his Nippon Ishin no Kai will not challenge each other in single-seat districts in their respective cities in the upcoming snap election.

The effective agreement on election cooperation between Kibo no To and Nippon Ishin in the two megalopolises ahead of the Oct. 22 Lower House election came during their talks Saturday in Osaka, which also included Aichi Gov. Hideaki Omura. The three governors agreed to broad cooperation on decentralization, local revitalization and support for seriously tackling political reform before the planned consumption tax hike to 10 percent in Oct. 2019.

“We’re not going to stand candidates in Osaka, and we’ll compartmentalize candidates with Nippon Ishin in Tokyo and Osaka,” Koike said.

Kibo no To has much in common with Matsui’s Nippon Ishin no Kai. Members of both parties share conservative, sometimes right-wing, views on issues and strongly support Japan’s military alliance with the United States. The Aichi governor has also backed Matsui on some issues in the past as well as previous Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto, who cofounded the Nippon Ishin movement with Matsui.

“There are many policy areas where Kibo no To and Nippon Ishin overlap. But we’re not the Democratic Party and we’re not going to merge with Kibo no To,” Matsui said.

He added that while Nippon Ishin would not challenge Kibo no To in single-seat districts, they would fight for proportional representation votes.

Earlier Saturday, Nippon Ishin released its campaign platform, which included support for a freeze on raising the consumption tax to 10 percent.

There was also an agreement on energy. Despite Koike’s favoring of nuclear power in the past, the language from Saturday’s three-governor agreement spoke of a “fade out” from nuclear power, the exact phrase that Nippon Ishin has used, and a switch to nonfossil fuel and renewable energy. Koike had said last week her new party was considering a zero nuclear power policy.

No timeline for the fade out or switch was given.

In addition, a clear stance on constitutional revision was not part of the broad agreement announced Saturday despite all three leaders being in favor of revising it, especially the anti-war, Article 9 clause, to allow for a more flexible military response. Nippon Ishin’s campaign platform promises to pursue “realistic” constitutional revisions, saying the current draft was problematic and not likely to be approved in a nationwide referendum to accept or reject Diet-approved changes.

But while Koike confirmed Kibo no To would not challenge Matsui’s Nippon Ishin no Kai directly, she also avoided strongly supporting the party’s plan to merge Osaka city and prefecture, a key Nippon Ishin goal.

It was also unclear just how much Matsui and Nippon Ishin members will assist Kibo no To candidates elsewhere during the campaign, which kicks off on October 10.

A close relationship between Kibo no To and Nippon Ishin remains problematic. Many in Nippon Ishin remain suspicious of Koike’s ability to govern effectively and are hostile to her plan to accept Democratic Party members into Kibo no To. Others worry getting too close to Koike could harm Matsui’s good relationship with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and especially with Komeito, with which Matsui’s party is nominally allied with in the prefectural and municipal assemblies to form a majority.