Nippon Ishin no Kai, which saw its seat count nearly quadruple in the Oct. 31 Lower House election, decided to keep Ichiro Matsui on as leader after deciding not to hold a presidential election at an extraordinary party convention in Osaka on Saturday.

“I had the thought of passing things off to supporters, but was told to remain in the lead a bit longer,” Matsui, also the mayor of Osaka, said following the convention.

But the Osaka-based national political party, now the third largest in parliament with 41 seats after the general election, still faces the challenge of finding an eventual replacement for Matsui, 57, one of the co-founders of Nippon Ishin.

In addition, Nippon Ishin, which won 15 of its 16 Lower House district seats in Osaka Prefecture, is seeking to develop a strategy to drum up support in other areas of the country in advance of next summer’s Upper House election by shaking its image as an Osaka-centric party.

The final tally for Saturday’s vote by senior party members saw 319 votes in support of the proposal to not hold a presidential election, with 151 voting against it.

One of the members who wanted an election was Osaka Gov. Hirofumi Yoshimura.

“We have to nurture a new leader while Matsui is still in office,” Yoshimura said in explaining his vote.

Prior to the Lower House election, there had been calls within the party to have Yoshimura, who became the face of the party due to his frequent local and national television appearances amid Osaka’s coronavirus crisis, run for a Lower House seat. But Yoshimura indicated well before the election he had no desire to resign as governor in order to run.

However, with no clear and publicly popular successor to Matsui other than Yoshimura, the party had little choice but to stick with Matsui, whose term as mayor ends in April 2023, after which he says he’ll retire from politics.

In an attempt to build its popularity in other parts of the country, party leaders agreed Saturday to changes in Nippon Ishin’s rules. Previously, all Nippon Ishin candidates for national office had to be recommended by the party’s local political group, Osaka Ishin no Kai (One Osaka). That clause was deleted.

While Matsui remains head of the party, Nippon Ishin secretary-general and Lower House member Nobuyuki Baba, 56, was named the party’s co-chair to replace 86-year-old Upper House member Toranosuke Katayama, who is ill and will not stand for re-election next summer.

In addition, the party is set to appoint three younger members to senior posts. Lower House member Fumitake Fujita, 40, from Osaka, will become secretary-general. But as part of the effort to raise its profile in Tokyo, Shun Otokita, 38, a former Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly member, will become policy research council chair while Hirofumi Yanagase, 47, also a former Tokyo assembly member, is being appointed the new general council chair.

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