(Nikkei: November 1, 2015 – p. 2)
Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto and his colleagues launched the “Osaka Ishin no Kai” in Osaka City on Oct. 31. Hashimoto, the new party’s interim leader, held a news conference after the inauguration, where he indicated the party’s goal to win a majority in the House of Representatives and take over the administration within five years. Although Hashimoto had previously announced his retirement from politics after his term as Osaka mayor expires on Dec. 18, there is speculation that the new party is meant to lay the groundwork for him to go into national politics.
Hashimoto stated at his news conference on Oct. 31: “We started with six Osaka prefectural assembly members but we have come this far in five years. If we maintain this pace, we will be able to win a majority of seats in the Lower House in five years.” He also said: “I cannot promise you what I will be doing (in five years). Anything is possible,” thus leaving the option of returning to politics open.
A total of 19 Diet members joined the new party. Hashimoto was elected its leader; Osaka Governor Ichiro Matsui its secretary general; and former Lower House member Hirofumi Yoshimura, who will be running in the Osaka mayoral election, its policy chief.
The new party’s political platform focuses on decentralization of power, including the “Osaka metropolis vision.” It also advocates constitutional revision to introduce public election of the prime minister and create a unicameral legislature. Hashimoto emphasized at the news conference that his party “will not waver in working seriously for reforms,” in anticipation of the House of Councillors election next summer.
The new party is being launched in a bid to win the simultaneous Osaka gubernatorial and mayoral elections on Nov. 22. Since these two elections hold the key to the party’s fate, an informed source notes that “losing either one of these elections will also mean that the new party will be eclipsed in national politics.”
The Osaka Ishin no Kai keeps its distance from the Democratic Party of Japan and other opposition parties and positions itself as a “third force” that may cooperate with the administration depending on the policy issue. Matsui met with Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga at the Prime Minister’s Official Residence (Kantei) on Oct. 28 and told him: “We are willing to cooperate with the administration if it’s in Osaka’s interest.” Hashimoto also said on Oct. 31: “A party that knows only how to oppose will not be able to take control of the government.”
Although the Kantei will be fighting against Osaka Ishin no Kai in the two Osaka elections, Suga has told his aides that “Hashimoto and Matsui have made up their minds.” Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has also stated: “We don’t want to leave Toru Hashimoto alone as a politician,” indicating his wish to work with him in the future.