Osaka Ishin no Kai, an increasingly popular local political grouping headed by Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto, has announced plans to establish itself on the national stage by winning seats in the upcoming Lower House election.
Hashimoto’s campaign slogan, “Stamp out old politics and create a new one,” certainly sounds refreshing, especially when the ruling Democratic Party of Japan, the main opposition Liberal Democratic Party and other mainstream parties are all in such a terrible mess.
It’s no wonder that recent opinion polls have shown high public expectations for Hashimoto’s group.
But so many new parties have emerged as promising new political forces by winning public support only to quickly lose momentum and disappear.
Hashimoto would say his group is different. If so, he should offer clear and convincing answers to key questions concerning two important elements of his political strategy.
One is his role in the new party.
Osaka Ishin no Kai says it will field about 300 candidates for the next Lower House election to gain a majority in the Lower House. That means the group is already aiming to become the largest voting bloc in the chamber so that it can come to power or join a ruling coalition.
Hashimoto, however, has said he himself will not run for the election and will continue serving as Osaka mayor.
It has been only nine months since Hashimoto took office after resigning as governor of Osaka Prefecture and running for mayor of the city to pursue his political agenda. He could not possibly win support from Osaka voters to give up his job in the middle of his quest to create a new Osaka metropolitan government, his signature policy initiative.
But governing the nation is not a job that can be done in your spare time.
There are also concerns that it may be unclear who is actually responsible for the new party’s political actions.
And what would Hashimoto do if the interests of the central government and those of his local government clash over issues like distribution of tax revenue sources?
Japanese voters need to hear how he plans to juggle his two jobs as head of the new party and Osaka’s mayor.
Secondly, he also needs to offer more details about his group’s campaign platform, dubbed “Ishin Hassaku” (the group’s eight-point plan).
The most notable among the group’s campaign pledges is “the remaking of the governing structure.”
It is true that one of the most urgent challenges facing this nation is how to end the political gridlock and get its policymaking machine running again.
As measures to achieve this goal, the platform contains several planks that would require amendments to the Constitution, such as the election of the prime minister by popular vote, the abolition of the Upper House and relaxation of the constitutional requirements for initiating amendments to the nation’s supreme law.
We disagree with the view that a political party should not seek to rewrite the Constitution. But what really matters here are the specific policy goals Hashimoto would pursue as he tries to break the political stalemate.
Japan is up against a raft of formidable policy challenges, such as the aging population amid low birthrates, weak economic growth and huge public debt.
Following the Fukushima nuclear disaster, developing a new energy policy is also a pressing need.
The Ishin platform calls for, among others, transferring consumption tax revenue to local governments, scrapping the system for allocating part of state tax receipts to local governments, introducing a reserve financing system for the state pension program and creating a system to wean the nation from dependence on nuclear power generation.
It is, however, unclear how the new party would realize these concrete policy proposals and how they would actually solve the sticky problems plaguing the nation.
We also don’t know what kind of vision Hashimoto has for the future of Japan’s society and government.
Hashimoto owes the public a clear and detailed explanation about what he intends to achieve through his foray into national politics.
--The Asahi Shimbun, Sept. 4
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