Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto is proceeding with plans to turn his regional Osaka Ishin no Kai group into a formal political party and has asked former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to join as a core member.
With the possibility that the Lower House could be dissolved in the current Diet session and a snap election held, Hashimoto has indicated a desire to trigger a political realignment with a party that has a strong conservative base. Abe, a member of the main opposition Liberal Democratic Party, is known for his conservative stance.
Preparations for establishing a new party could begin in earnest in August, the formation of which would roil the ruling Democratic Party of Japan and the LDP.
Sources said about 20 lawmakers from the DPJ and opposition parties have expressed interest in joining the new party. If Osaka Ishin no Kai could lure Abe, it would give the new party a nationally known name on the ticket, since Hashimoto has denied any plans to personally run in the next Lower House election.
In response to questions from The Asahi Shimbun, Abe said on Aug. 14, "Osaka Ishin no Kai has the power to change Japan in a major way. I have exchanged opinions on a number of different occasions with Osaka Governor Ichiro Matsui (secretary-general of Osaka Ishin no Kai)."
At the same time, Abe has not yet made a decision on joining Hashimoto's new party because he may run in the LDP presidential election scheduled for September.
For Hashimoto's Osaka-based group to be formally recognized as a political party, it needs to enlist at least five incumbent Diet members. Such recognition allows a party to run candidates in both the single-seat and proportional representation constituencies of a Lower House election.
Osaka Ishin no Kai members have also contacted other lawmakers in preparing for the formation of a new party.
Osaka Ishin no Kai has set up a study group on administrative systems with more than 10 Diet members, such as Yorihisa Matsuno, a DPJ member who once served as deputy chief Cabinet secretary, and Kenta Matsunami, an LDP Lower House member. Hashimoto, Matsui and five Diet members attended the group's latest meeting in Osaka on Aug. 11.
Matsuno told The Asahi Shimbun on Aug. 14 that he was considering leaving the DPJ to join Hashimoto's new party.
Osaka Ishin no Kai officials are asking those lawmakers thinking about joining the new party to agree to the group's policy platform that it has compiled with an eye toward the next Lower House election.
One Osaka Ishin no Kai official said, "While there are many lawmakers who are considering joining us, the major question will be whether agreement can be achieved over policy."
Osaka Ishin no Kai is operating a political school to develop potential candidates for the next Lower House election. While most of the new party's candidates may come from those who go through the school, Osaka Ishin no Kai officials plan to allow lawmakers who leave their parties to run as a candidate from the new party in their districts.
DPJ officials are raising concerns about party members bolting to join Hashimoto's new party. About 80 lawmakers have already left the DPJ, and further defections could have a devastating effect on the ruling party.
The recent passage into law of legislation to raise the consumption tax rate to 10 percent in October 2015 as well as the decision to resume operations at the Oi nuclear power plant in Fukui Prefecture have hurt the DPJ's public support ratings.
A recent poll by The Asahi Shimbun found the LDP had a 10-percentage point lead over the DPJ when respondents were asked which party they would vote for in the proportional representation constituency.
DPJ lawmakers worried about re-election may feel it safer to join Hashimoto's party rather than remain in the DPJ.
One lawmaker who is cooperating with Osaka Ishin no Kai said, "It would be preferable if the DPJ was simply destroyed. Many lawmakers will likely begin thinking about their next move."
There is also dissatisfaction within the LDP over moves by party elders to continue cooperating with the DPJ and opposition party New Komeito.
LDP head Sadakazu Tanigaki chose to stick with the three-party cooperative effort to pass the consumption tax legislation through the Upper House.
However, younger LDP members have raised concerns about proceeding down the path of further cooperation.
Yoshihide Suga, an LDP member who is close to Abe and who has also sought to cooperate with Osaka Ishin no Kai members, said, "While there are some in the LDP calling for a three-party ruling coalition, errors in national policy would be made unless there was agreement on basic principles."
Abe has also said, "It is fundamentally wrong to have a ruling coalition between the two largest parties."
- « Prev
- Next »