In the long-running rivalry between Tokyo and Osaka over such topics as trend-setting, sports and cuisine, the subject of national politics has rarely entered the mix.
But now, Osaka has been thrust in the spotlight of Japan’s political scene as a regional party prepares to formally establish itself on the national level next week.
Osaka Ishin no Kai, founded by Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto, is one of the rare parties in Japan that can be described as popular. Voters fed up with the deadlock in national politics are increasingly paying attention to the radical ideas espoused by Osaka Ishin no Kai, including a drastic change in the way the governing structure operates.
One of its plans is to eventually make Osaka—not Tokyo—the center for announcing policy direction and political activities.
All major political parties until now have had their headquarters in Tokyo, with Diet members and local government officials toeing the party line. The headquarters of Osaka Ishin no Kai’s new party will be in Osaka, and Hashimoto (who was born in Tokyo) will serve as party head.
Diet members from Osaka Ishin no Kai's new party will form their own caucus and choose a caucus leader. However, whenever important decisions about Diet matters arise, caucus officials will have to travel to Osaka to confer with Hashimoto, Osaka Governor Ichiro Matsui, who will serve as secretary-general of the new party, and other party officials.
The ultimate decision-making authority will rest with Hashimoto.
But questions remain—even within Osaka Ishin no Kai—on whether such a structure will actually function.
"This is the best form that we came up with after thinking about it for a long time,” a party official said. “Since it will be unprecedented, we will not know whether it works until we actually start it."
On Sept. 4, Matsui emphasized that the new party's main task will be to revise the governing structure of centralized authority that has been in place since the Meiji Era (1868-1912).
Osaka Ishin no Kai officials plan to formally decide on Sept. 8 to move into the national political arena. They will have an open debate with Diet members from existing parties on Sept. 9, before holding a fund-raising party on Sept. 12 to officially declare the formation of the new party.
At least five Diet members are expected to join from the very beginning, including Yorihisa Matsuno, a ruling Democratic Party of Japan lawmaker who once served as deputy chief Cabinet secretary, and Kenta Matsunami, a member of the main opposition Liberal Democratic Party.
Within the new party, the Diet caucus to be formed by Matsuno and others would be at the same level as the caucuses for the Osaka municipal and prefectural assemblies. The head of the Diet caucus would handle chores normally carried out by leaders of other political parties, and other caucus members would be in charge of Diet affairs.
The new party will turn upside down the way in which decisions are transmitted and followed by local government officials. Instead of having local officials simply abide by decisions made in the Diet, Osaka Ishin no Kai's new party will announce policy direction and political activities from Osaka.
One expected problem is how the Diet caucus head and Hashimoto will split their roles. Hashimoto has repeatedly said he does not plan to run in the next Lower House election. Questions could arise as to where responsibility lies in the party if Hashimoto becomes party chief without holding a Diet seat.
At the same time, Hashimoto is the only individual with the charisma and popularity to serve as party head and attract voters nationwide.
The policy platform to be used by Osaka Ishin no Kai also reflects an emphasis on changing the national governing structure.
For example, the platform calls for converting the consumption tax into a local tax revenue source.
The party also seeks the abolition of the Upper House and halving the number of Lower House seats.
But many of the planks do not include specific timelines for implementation. And the proposal for turning the consumption tax into a local tax and abolishing state tax grants to local governments does not mention how the fiscal differences between urban and rural areas would be coordinated.
Other planks would necessitate constitutional revisions requiring the approval of two-thirds of the members of the two chambers of the Diet.
The failure of the DPJ in meeting the specific schedules and goals set in its campaign manifesto is one reason Osaka Ishin no Kai did not include timelines or targets in its platform.
"If we included numerical goals without really understanding the actual situation at the national level, we would lose flexibility by being handcuffed by those numbers," an Osaka Ishin no Kai official said.
In a tweet on Sept. 4, Hashimoto said the party platform should be considered an outline of its main values. He said that once agreement could be reached on that platform, the party would be able to express a clear policy direction to the administrative organization.
The party plans to run a number of individuals with experience in local government as candidates in the next Lower House election. Among the names being mentioned are Hideo Higashikokubaru, the former Miyazaki governor, Hiroshi Nakada, the former Yokohama mayor, and Hiroshi Yamada, the former mayor of Suginami Ward in Tokyo.
- « Prev
- Next »