Ishihara declares new party, calls for 'third force'

November 14, 2012

THE ASAHI SHIMBUN

Former Tokyo Governor Shintaro Ishihara announced the formation of the Sunrise Party on Nov. 13, but he could face a time crunch in negotiating a coalition with other parties.

Ishihara's party aims to create a "third force" in Japan's politics before the next Lower House election, which could be held as early as December, to vie with the ruling Democratic Party of Japan and the main opposition Liberal Democratic Party.

The new party is based on the Sunrise Party of Japan, which had five Diet members. Ishihara and Takeo Hiranuma, former head of the old party, serve as co-leaders of the new party.

"We will unite our forces to win a new Battle of Sekigahara," said the 80-year-old Ishihara, referring to a decisive battle in medieval times for the rule of Japan.

To achieve that goal, Ishihara has shown he is eager to cooperate with other small parties, such as the Japan Restoration Party, led by popular Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto.

"The most prevalent view among the public is that this country will sink if things remain as they are," Ishihara told a news conference. "The Sunrise Party represents only a transition (to a broader political realignment). I don't mind if our party is absorbed by another."

The new party was named after Ishihara's award-wining 1955 novel, "Season of the Sun."

The party's principles feature conservative ideas, such as establishing a new Constitution and doubling Japan's defense capability. The party also emphasizes measures to restore fiscal health, including ending the issuance of new deficit-covering government bonds by the 2020s.

But the party platform does not include a specific stance on the disputed Senkaku Islands, of which Ishihara made an issue when he was Tokyo governor, or nuclear power policy, on which Ishihara has a different view from the Japan Restoration Party. Hashimoto's party calls for breaking with nuclear power.

It is unclear whether a united third force will be able to come together before the next Lower House election amid the growing likelihood of the chamber being dissolved by year's end.

The Sunrise Party will hold talks on policies with the Japan Restoration Party this week, but cooperation between the two parties could be criticized as a union of convenience because of differences in such issues as nuclear power and the consumption tax hike. Ishihara supports the government's consumption tax hike plan, which would raise the tax rate to 10 percent in 2015.

A senior official of the Japan Restoration Party said, "I understand Ishihara's determination, but there is little time."

Ishihara has made phone calls to senior Japan Restoration Party officials almost every day to urge them to work together, and he also talked with Hashimoto by phone on Nov. 13. After the conversation, Hashimoto said agreements on policy issues will be most important.

"Policy debate should come first," Hashimoto told reporters. "What step we can take should be considered after that."

THE ASAHI SHIMBUN
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Shintaro Ishihara announces the formation of the Sunrise Party on Nov. 13. The former Tokyo governor serves as co-head of the party. (Hiroyuki Yamamoto)

Shintaro Ishihara announces the formation of the Sunrise Party on Nov. 13. The former Tokyo governor serves as co-head of the party. (Hiroyuki Yamamoto)

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  • Shintaro Ishihara announces the formation of the Sunrise Party on Nov. 13. The former Tokyo governor serves as co-head of the party. (Hiroyuki Yamamoto)

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