The parties led by nationalist politician Shintaro Ishihara and popular Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto announced their merger on Nov. 17, after the former governor of Tokyo made numerous concessions on policy.
Ishihara, who left the Tokyo metropolitan government to form the new Sunrise Party, and Hashimoto, who leads the Japan Restoration Party, resolved their differences and agreed that Ishihara would become party chief after the merger is completed.
The Japan Restoration Party also announced the names of 46 candidates who will run in single-seat districts on the party's ticket in the Dec. 16 Lower House election. The party is expected to announce additional candidates soon.
Like other leaders of small parties, Hashimoto and Ishihara have been seeking to create a political force that can offer voters a viable alternative to the ruling Democratic Party of Japan and the main opposition Liberal Democratic Party on election day.
At his meeting with Ishihara in Tokyo on Nov. 16, Hashimoto emphasized the need to reach an agreement on policy issues.
“It is important for us to share the same policy stand,” Hashimoto said. “Can we agree on this?”
A number of parties have been seeking an alliance with Hashimoto, but the mayor has insisted they must first accept a package of policies adopted by the Japan Restoration Party and Your Party, headed by Lower House member Yoshimi Watanabe. The Japan Restoration Party and Your Party agreed on a common campaign platform on Nov. 15 for the election.
The policy package includes the abolition of nuclear energy and Japan’s participation in talks to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade agreement.
Ishihara has long defended the use of nuclear power generation in Japan. And the conservative members of the Sunrise Party also opposed Japan’s participation in the TPP.
However, the normally combative Ishihara accepted the Japan Restoration Party’s campaign platform in its entirety.
In return, Hashimoto agreed that Ishihara should lead the Japan Restoration Party after the merger is complete. Ishihara, 80, is a former LDP lawmaker who resigned as Tokyo governor last month to return to national politics. He is believed to be eyeing the post of prime minister.
Hashimoto, who has said he himself will not run in the Lower House election, is expected to become acting chief of the party.
Hashimoto also demanded that Ishihara retract his Nov. 15 announcement that the Sunrise Party would merge with Genzei Nippon (Tax cuts Japan party), led by Nagoya Mayor Takashi Kawamura, a former DPJ lawmaker. Hashimoto has shunned Kawamura’s party, citing differences over power bases.
Ishihara accepted Hashimoto’s demand, just a day after he and Kawamura announced the Sunrise Party’s merger with the Tax cuts Japan party in a news conference.
Kawamura did not hide his bewilderment on Nov. 16 after he learned of Ishihara’s turnabout.
“I haven’t got a clue,” he told reporters. “I should call people in Osaka to discuss the matter.”
Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda on Nov. 17 criticized the merger between the Japan Restoration Party and the Sunrise Party as “political expediency.”
“They are uniting by putting off high-priority issues, although they say they are joining hands by resolving minor differences,” Noda told reporters in Tokyo.
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