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POLITICS

Nippon Ishin faces difficult path after losing Suga

By Kubota Yuki

 

Nine years after its launch, the Nippon Ishin (Japan Innovation Party) is at a crossroads. The “Osaka Metropolis Initiative,” the party’s centerpiece policy to transform Osaka Prefecture into a metropolis, has fallen through, and Suga Yoshihide, whose administration was friendly with the Nippon Ishin, is no longer at the Kantei [Prime Minister’s Office]. Now Nippon Ishin is trying hard to rid itself of its image of being the “supplementary party to the LDP and Komeito” by intensifying its opposition to the Kishida administration.

 

“The ruling parties have been mending the fraying Showa-era system using only band-aids,” said Ishin secretary-general Baba Nobuyuki to Prime Minister Kishida Fumio during interpellations at the Diet on Oct. 12. Baba called for the ruling parties to take more reform efforts.

 

Nippon Ishin currently has 25 legislators in the Diet. There are ten in the Lower House, of whom seven were elected from the Osaka area. In an effort to expand its influence in the capital, the party fielded 13 candidates to run in the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly election in July. Despite active support from the party leader, Matsui Ichiro, and his deputy, Yoshimura Yoichi, only one candidate won a seat.

 

The party holds considerable sway in the Kansai region. In the Hyogo gubernatorial election in July, Nippon Ishin, in cooperation with the LDP, succeeded in having the Ishin-backed candidate elected. In Osaka, many municipality heads are backed by Nippon Ishin.

 

“It is extremely difficult to build a nationwide support base,” says Matsui, however.

 

The Osaka Metropolis Initiative, the centerpiece of the party platform, failed in referendums 2015 and 2020, both by a small margin. The party’s campaign slogan of realizing “basic income,” in which every Japanese will be guaranteed a minimum income, is not gaining much of a following. The party has nothing to replace the Osaka Metropolis Initiative.

 

The end of the Suga administration was another blow to the party. The close tie between Matsui and Suga enabled Osaka to win the 2025 Osaka/Kansai World Exposition and to host a G20 Summit meeting for the first time in Japan. “It was fortunate for us that Suga wielded influence in the [successive] administrations,” said a Nippon Ishin source.

 

“We don’t need to join hands with the LDP” after the upcoming Lower House election, Matsui says. “If a time were to come when our members were only interested in getting appointments to certain positions, that would be the day we would disband the party.” The aforementioned source, however, countered that view, saying: “I wouldn’t be surprised if there were Nippon Ishin legislators who would be happy to join the LDP if that meant getting a couple of cabinet posts. People in the party are saying this, too.” (Abridged)

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