Nippon Ishin no Kai will hold an emergency meeting Nov. 25 to discuss whether it is time to elect new leaders as the party struggles with internal dissension following its poor performance in the Oct. 22 Lower House election.

“The climax (for our party) will be next autumn with another possible plebiscite in the city of Osaka over the Osaka merger plan,” said Nippon Ishin Secretary-General Nobuyuki Baba at a news conference Tuesday. “In order to succeed, we need to think about who deserves to be the party leader. But we should make the choice not just based on the results of the Lower House election but also based on whose thinking embodies the spirit of the party,” he added.

Infighting within the party ensued after Nippon Ishin’s poor showing in the election. Hodaka Maruyama, a 33-year-old Diet member who was one of only 11 party members to win a seat in the poll, criticized the party leadership, saying it was time to consider party elections. That drew an angry response on Twitter from former Osaka Mayor and Nippon Ishin co-founder Toru Hashimoto, who attacked Maruyama personally and said the only reason he won was that Matsui was governor. Hashimoto also tweeted that if voters supported politicians like Maruyama, Nippon Ishin would become extinct.

The rebuke prompted Maruyama to announce Oct. 31 that he was resigning from Nippon Ishin, saying that while he could accept criticism from Hashimoto and Matsui over his questioning of the party leadership and calls for an open election, he could not forgive the attacks that Hashimoto in particular launched against his supporters.

Since the founding of the original party in 2012 by Matsui and Hashimoto — the latter retiring from local politics in 2015 — Matsui has held a top position. Maruyama’s criticism of Matsui and the older party leaders also reflects a broader generational split within Nippon Ishin no Kai. Younger members worry that it is increasingly becoming a rudderless organization while older members believe that if its primary goal of merging Osaka’s 23 wards into fewer larger, semi-autonomous districts is accomplished, the party will win back the respect of voters and gain popularity outside Osaka.

There is still much support for Matsui in the party leadership, but it is unclear as to who might challenge him.

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