Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) Secretary General Toshihiro Nikai and Nippon Ishin [Japan Innovation Party] leader Ichiro Matsui met at a hotel in Tokyo on the evening of Feb. 6. This was the first serious meeting between the two politicians, who had been at odds over the former Japan Innovation Party’s key policy, the Osaka metropolis plan. They exchanged views on such issues as hosting the 2025 World Exposition in Osaka.
Motoo Hayashi, LDP executive acting secretary general, and Nippon Ishin Secretary General Nobuyuki Baba and Diet Affairs Committee chair Takashi Endo were also present at the two-hour meeting.
Matsui and Toru Hashimoto, Nippon Ishin’s former leader, have been in frequent contact with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga. However, Nikai is not pleased with Abe’s relations with Matsui and his colleagues. He used to be unabashedly anti-Ishin, saying he “has no desire at all” to cooperate with the Osaka metropolis plan.
However, Abe gave consideration to Nippon Ishin at the extraordinary Diet session last fall, giving his support to the law on promoting integrated resorts (IR) with casinos. Cooperation between the two parties is now becoming indispensable for steering Diet proceedings. It appears that Nikai has now become amenable to building cooperative relations with Nippon Ishin.
Nippon Ishin will also benefit greatly from stronger ties with Nikai. Having good relations not only with Abe, but also with the LDP leadership, will make the passage of the bills submitted by Nippon Ishin possible. If the party is unable to project an image of an opposition party capable of presenting alternative proposals, it is certain to be bypassed in the clash between the new party led by Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike and the establishment parties in the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly election on July 2.
Endo, who arranged this meeting, has been building ties with Nikai faction Diet members since last year and was looking for an opportunity to resolve the hard feelings between the two groups.
Koike, who is becoming a common “threat,” was also discussed at the meeting. Nikai was stunned by Koike’s power in the Chiyoda Ward mayoral election on Feb. 5.
When Matsui remarked that “Ms. Koike is working very hard,” Nikai responded coldly: “We’ll see how far she can get.” (Slightly abridged)