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Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Ozawa courting Hashimoto for tieup

Staff writer

OSAKA — Former Democratic Party of Japan power broker Ichiro Ozawa is saying he would welcome a tieup with Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto in the next Lower House election.

The appeal, initiated Sunday, to the popular Hashimoto, who plans to field up to 300 candidates and hopes to capture 200 seats, came as the mayor and his supporters fine tune their political platform by calling for the national consumption tax to be turned into a local tax, and for a national referendum on whether to revise Article 9 of the Constitution.

Ozawa, expected to form a new political party Wednesday with around 50 followers, said his political philosophy is in tune with Hashimoto's Osaka Ishin no Kai (One Osaka).

"Hashimoto says that unless the fundamental way Japan is governed is changed, things will get worse. I've been saying this for a long time, and have emphasized that power must devolve from the central government to the local regions," Ozawa said on NHK.

"Hashimoto's thinking is basically the same as mine, and I want to tie up with those who think along similar lines."

Last week, Osaka Ishin no Kai finalized its political manifesto for the Lower House election. Though there were few changes from the basic platform released earlier this year, the revised version doesn't come out for or against raising the consumption tax. Instead, the group calls for it to become a local tax administered by local governments.

"The way to change Japan is by making the consumption tax a local tax, which will help local governments achieve independence from Tokyo and realize a system of semiautonomous regions," Hashimoto said last week.

The mayor believes that, along with the question of whether to keep using nuclear power, the structure of the sales tax will be the main issue in the next poll.

But he and Osaka Ishin no Kai have also stirred controversy among potential allies with another proposal, which is to revise the Constitution to allow revision by a simple majority vote instead of a two-thirds majority and then hold a national referendum on whether to revise Article 9, the passivist clause.

Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara said late last week that, rather than revise Article 9, the Constitution should be scrapped entirely. The governor, who plans to field his own supporters in the election, is a close ally of Hashimoto and would likely tie up with him after the election.

However, Ishihara and Ozawa have long been political opponents. Many in Osaka Ishin no Kai are reluctant to join forces with Ozawa, saying it's better to remain on good terms with Ishihara and that Hashimoto's rising popularity in Kansai and elsewhere means it's unnecessary to court Ozawa.

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The Japan Times

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