Osaka Ishin no Kai (Osaka restoration association), a political party led by Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimto, has drafted its campaign pledges for the next Lower House election.
The draft manifesto covers broad subjects that include foreign policy, the economy and the social security system, in addition to rehashing the party's resolve to overhaul the nation's local administrative structures, bureaucracy and education.
The party intends to field 300 candidates for the Lower House, where it hopes to capture 200 seats.
We have no issues with a regional political organization advancing into national politics in order to change the country. But Osaka Ishin no Kai's main objective at its inception was to turn Osaka into a metropolis-cum-prefecture. We can hardly say that the party has provided any satisfactory explanation for its abrupt change of course to seek considerable representation in the Diet.
Right after winning the Osaka mayoral election in November last year, Hashimoto asserted: "My goal is to consolidate the administrative functions of the municipal and prefectural governments of Osaka. It is for members of the Diet to change the country. I would be overstepping my bounds as a mayor to think I, too, could do it."
Hashimoto also said that the party's advance into national politics would be conditional on failing to win support from other parties on his Osaka-metropolis-prefecture concept.
In actuality, however, the Liberal Democratic Party and Your Party have indicated their support and proposed their respective plans for reforming the local autonomy law.
The fact that Hashimoto has set a more ambitious goal for his party would seem to suggest that his real, personal target has always been to become the nation's top leader.
In a little over two months since he became mayor, Hashimoto has come up with quite an array of reform plans, but work has only just begun. And the party has not rewritten its prospectus, where it is defined as a "regional political party" that "aims for Osaka's revival."
The party has expanded its influence on the strength of Hashimoto's tremendous mass appeal. But Hashimoto himself has denied any possibility of running for the Lower House. We believe questions will be raised in the days ahead over whether it is appropriate for Hashimoto to remain the mayor of Osaka while his party seeks to seize the reins of national government.
Campaign pledges include the abolition of the Upper House and popular election of the prime minister, both of which are predicated on constitutional revision. The manifesto also envisions a pension program under which people will pay their premiums without collecting benefits later, which would require a radical overhaul of the conventional pension system. These are still only "ideas" rather than official policy plans, and the party needs to deliberate them before they ask the public to judge.
In the meantime, a political academy the party is scheduled to open next month has already received applications from more than 3,000 people. They will undoubtedly form a huge reserve of would-be candidates in the next Lower House election.
Hashimoto comes across as a strong, reliable leader because the speed with which he challenges vested interests contrasts sharply with the administration's inability to fulfill its promises, year after year, with prime ministers effectively coming and going every year.
Seeing Hashimoto's style of politics, the public has understandably come to hope, if only vaguely, that a non-establishment regional party such as his may be able to get the job done.
Opinion polls indicate that Osaka Ishin no Kai is picking up considerable popular support as a force capable of injecting fresh air into stale national politics.
Established political parties should think hard about what it is attracting the public to this Osaka party. The underlying reason is the public's mistrust with the current state of politics.
--The Asahi Shimbun, Feb. 15
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