ANALYSIS: Merger forces Japan Restoration Party to drop major policy stances

November 19, 2012


In the rush to form a stronger political party with a Lower House election less than a month away, Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto’s Japan Restoration Party considerably weakened its anti-nuclear power stance.

In announcing on Nov. 17 that his Japan Restoration Party would join forces with former Tokyo Governor Shintaro Ishihara’s new Sunrise Party, Hashimoto explained why their agreement did not include wording to eliminate all nuclear plants by the 2030s.

“The first thing is to create rules and that will be followed by minor adjustments,” Hashimoto said at a joint news conference. “In order to have Ishihara become the head of the new party, we did not clearly state ‘zero’ nuclear energy.”

The two parties were miles apart on nuclear energy, with Ishihara saying it was necessary for the time being. Hashimoto’s party had joined the growing call across the nation against nuclear power in the wake of last year’s accident at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

The agreement reached by the two parties only says that new rules will be created for nuclear energy under the process of establishing a new supply and demand structure for energy.

Hashimoto has long called for halting operations at all nuclear plants by the 2030s, but the agreement did not even mention moving away from nuclear energy.

Hashimoto and Ishihara met on Nov. 16 to hammer out the basic agreement, but it was hurriedly put together because the Lower House was dissolved later that day and a Lower House election was set on Dec. 16.

As a result, there was also a weakening in the wording about joining the negotiations for the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade arrangement. While the Japan Restoration Party had strongly called for such a move, the agreement reached with the new Sunrise Party said while Japan would participate in the TPP talks, the new party would also oppose joining the TPP if the results of the negotiations led to the recognition that the arrangement was not in Japan’s national interests.

The new Sunrise Party also conceded on the consumption tax issue. The former Sunrise Party had called for using revenues from the consumption tax for social security purposes. However, in the agreement, the party went along with the Japan Restoration Party’s stance that consumption tax revenues would be converted into revenues for local governments.

The Japan Restoration Party on Nov. 15 compiled a joint campaign platform with Your Party. The differences between that joint platform and the agreement reached with the new Sunrise Party are striking.

The joint platform clearly calls for moving away from nuclear energy as well as aggressively moving to join the TPP.

While Ishihara expressed confidence at the Nov. 17 news conference that Your Party would join the new party, Kenji Eda, Your Party secretary-general, said policy positions would be the most important factor for any collaborative effort.

The ruling Democratic Party of Japan and the main opposition Liberal Democratic Party were quick to criticize the manner in which the Japan Restoration Party and the new Sunrise Party joined hands.

“There are major differences in what the Japan Restoration Party has said until now and what the new Sunrise Party has said,” LDP Secretary-General Shigeru Ishiba said on Nov. 17 in a speech in Fukuyama, Hiroshima Prefecture.

Jun Azumi, the acting secretary-general of the DPJ, said, “Even children can see that it is an ‘unholy alliance.’”

Seiji Maehara, the state minister in charge of national policy, pointed to the contradictions involved in the merger of the two parties.

“The Sunrise Party is super-conservative and the Japan Restoration Party is a reformist party,” he said.

However, both Ishihara and Hashimoto did not back down from such criticism about an “unholy alliance.”

“Isn’t that the case for all parties?” Ishihara asked. “That goes for the DPJ and LDP. They have no right to say that about others.”

Hashimoto said, “If we shared the same stance on everything, that would mean we were like North Korea.”

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Shintaro Ishihara, right, shakes hands with Toru Hashimoto at a meeting of the Japan Restoration Party on Nov. 17 in Osaka. (Yoshinori Mizuno)

Shintaro Ishihara, right, shakes hands with Toru Hashimoto at a meeting of the Japan Restoration Party on Nov. 17 in Osaka. (Yoshinori Mizuno)

  • Shintaro Ishihara, right, shakes hands with Toru Hashimoto at a meeting of the Japan Restoration Party on Nov. 17 in Osaka. (Yoshinori Mizuno)
  • Shintaro Ishihara, left, follows Toru Hashimoto after a joint news conference on Nov. 17 in Osaka. (Yoshinori Mizuno)

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