National / Politics

Kibo no To and Osaka’s Nippon Ishin in cautious collaboration with wide policy overlap

by Eric Johnston

Staff Writer

The basic platform of Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike’s new Kibo no To (Party of Hope), with promises of freezing the scheduled income tax hike to reducing the salaries and number of Diet members, has a familiar ring for many members of the Osaka-centered Nippon Ishin no Kai, which has agreed to cooperate with Koike in the coming election.

“Kibo no To’s policies and political philosophy are basically the same as Nippon Ishin’s,” Nippon Ishin co-leader and Upper House member Toranosuke Katayama said in a recent speech in Nagoya. “The kind of reforms it is talking about are things Nippon Ishin has long pursued.”

Both parties are considered to be conservative to right wing, and both favor neoliberal economic policies and smaller government. However, while they have many policy similarities, a genuine merger is problematic. Both parties want to remain similar but have different priorities, with Nippon Ishin pressing a more detailed decentralization plan and Kibo no To offering only general promises.

The policies unveiled Friday by Koike are apparently borrowed, in some cases word-for-word, from Nippon Ishin’s party platform, which was released late last week, although Nippon Ishin has so far offered more specific promises than Kibo no To.

Both parties are promising to cut the number of Diet members and decrease their salaries. Nippon Ishin’s party platform is more specific, saying it will work to see a 30 percent reduction in the number of Diet seats and salaries, as part of a more general strategy to readjust Japanese politics in line with an aging society and declining population.

In addition, both have promised to freeze the planned consumption tax increase to 10 percent, scheduled for 2019.

Kibo no To is also promising to work for radical change at the local government level, including the abolishment of the prefectural system that Japan adopted in the late 19th century. The party wants to institute a regional block system that would offer far more autonomy from Tokyo.

The goal has remained a central plank of Nippon Ishin’s local and national platforms for nearly a decade, beginning with the rise of the Ishin movement under Toru Hashimoto, party founder and former Osaka governor and mayor.

Both parties say they will work toward constitutional revision as well as for changes allowing for greater power at the local governmental level. Finally, both have used the word “realistic” in connection with the diplomatic and security policies they want to pursue, especially in cooperation with the United States.

One area where the parties diverge is the issue of nuclear power. At the end of September, Koike was talking about a “fade out” by 2030 to describe her thinking about nuclear power. That promise, with no definite deadline, is being used by Nippon Ishin. But since the formation of Kibo no To, Koike has changed her position to a more specific goal of “zero” nuclear power by 2030.

With so much in common, leaders of both parties have suggested there is lots of room for cooperation once the election is over. But Nippon Ishin co-leader Ichiro Matsui, who is also Osaka governor, is wary of drawing too close to Koike. He has suggested that if she were to run in the Lower House election, relations would become difficult.

“Our agreement not to run candidates directly against each other would be back to square one, not worth the paper it’s printed on, if she is no longer governor,” Matsui told reporters in Osaka on Thursday.