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Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Ishin no Kai flip-flops on Lower House poll


Staff writer

OSAKA — Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto's Osaka Ishin no Kai (One Osaka) political group now plans to field candidates in the next Lower House election and have its platform ready by early next month.

The decision ends over a week of contradictory statements from Osaka Ishin no Kai members following Hashimoto's remarks June 9 that his group may not field candidates if the Diet passes legislation this session to merge the prefecture and city of Osaka, which would give it an arrangement similar to Tokyo, whose 23 wards are overseen by the metropolitan government. The Diet closes Thursday.

The flip-flops demonstrate growing differences between Hashimoto and top leaders of the group he founded over how to manage the growing political movement Osaka Ishin no Kai created and what its role should be.

At a meeting of its members Sunday, policy research chief Hitoshi Asada said its platform would be similar to the "eight-point manifesto" released earlier this year, with the exception of the section on welfare payments.

"Basically, there's no change, although we're discussing limiting the period of welfare payments," Asada told reporters after the meeting.

The decision to create a Lower House poll platform comes a few days after Asada and other Osaka Ishin no Kai leaders announced preparations to field up to 300 candidates in the next general election, which must be held no later than August 2013.

On June 23, about 900 remaining students from Hashimoto's political school, which opened in late March with 2,000 students, will enter their second term. The focus will be on training them to run for election. Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara, a close Hashimoto ally who is boasting his own school to field candidates in Tokyo, will speak at the opening ceremony.

Eventually, about 300 students are expected to become candidates, and Osaka Ishin no Kai hopes to win up to 200 seats. The leaders say they have a lock on about 50 seats in Kansai.

Although Hashimoto backtracked from his June 8 statement by saying he wanted to field candidates because the merger of the city of Osaka and the prefecture required action by the Diet, he did so only after pressure from Asada, who also heads Hashimoto's political school, and Osaka Gov. Ichiro Matsui, the No. 2 man in Osaka Ishin no Kai.

Matsui in particular has found himself at odds with Hashimoto recently, saying he did not approve of the restart of reactors 3 and 4 at Kansai Electric Power Co.'s nuclear plant in Oi, Fukui Prefecture, after Hashimoto told reporters that, in effect, Kansai's leaders, including himself and Matsui, did just that when they signed a May 30 declaration by the Union of Kansai Governments. The central government gave the official reactor restart nod on Saturday.

"If (current) Diet members don't undertake financial reform, we have to field our own candidates in the election," Matsui said last week in response to Hashmoto's announcement that he may not name anyone to run in the next Diet poll.

Asada, meanwhile, told the Japan Press Club, also last week, that while Hashimoto meant to say he would not field candidates if the Osaka merger bill cleared the Diet, there was a chance the legislation would not be passed. Therefore, there was no change to plans to field candidates in the next general election.



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The Japan Times

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