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Friday, Aug. 18, 2000
LDP reformists to take issues to voters outside Tokyo, Ishihara says
By YOKO HANI
Since issuing the call for reform of the Liberal Democratic Party more than a month ago, Nobuteru Ishihara has been bombarded with questions from reporters and political observers:
Is his group aiming to replace Yoshiro Mori as party chief? What about kingpin Secretary General Hiromu Nonaka? Is there any possibility of his group splitting from the LDP and allying with opposition forces?
After his Group to Create the LDP's Tomorrow compiled a set of proposals for party reform, Ishihara is now a little subdued when discussing his and his colleagues' moves.
"Mass media reports go on and on. But actually, this group was born only a month ago," Ishihara said in an interview with The Japan Times. "We have just decided to hold meetings with voters outside Tokyo as a next step in our activities."
Ishihara, a 43-year-old lawmaker from Tokyo, believes the results of the June 25 Lower House election, in which the LDP lost 38 seats, clearly reflected the voters' aversion to what he calls the "character of the LDP" as a party sticking to pork-barrel politics and obsolete ways.
Concerned about the LDP's future, Ishihara, the eldest son of Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara, and his comrades established the group and began criticizing the party leadership for its failure to admit defeat in the election.
But now, instead of loudly criticizing party executives, Ishihara says the group will expand its movement by meeting and listening to voters.
"They (party leaders) have survived the election defeat. What can we do to force them to step down?" he asked. "I am not criticizing Mori or Nonaka personally. The big problem is the apparent gap between the party's way of thinking and what the public wants."
Ishihara's group aims to narrow the gap by updating what he calls the party's out-of-date character.
One of the issues to be tackled is factional politics. Still, many of the reform group's members themselves belong to factions, including one led by Mori. Ishihara is a member of the faction led by former Secretary General Koichi Kato, who is considered to be one of the strongest candidates to succeed Mori as LDP chief.
Ishihara admits that the diverse opinions and attitudes of the group's members make it difficult to work out a single goal.
"In a recent meeting, we discussed the matter and decided to keep our group open to everybody, whether or not he or she belongs to any other groups of the party," Ishihara said. "And we confirmed that all members will be free to voice their own opinions, although I will serve as spokesman for the group."
While some group members want Ishihara to run as the group's candidate for the LDP presidency, he himself said Makiko Tanaka is probably better suited.
And he smilingly declined to comment on a speculation that his father, formerly a longtime LDP lawmaker, may get involved in his group's movement in the future. But he didn't rule it out.