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Thursday, July 12, 2012

In shift, Hashimoto praises Noda as 'decisive' leader

Staff writer

OSAKA — In an apparent bid to woo potential allies after a Lower House election, Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto has ended his long-standing criticism of Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda and now praises the Democratic Party of Japan leader as decisive and saying that if like-minded members of the DPJ and Liberal Democratic Party unite, they could be a force to be reckoned with.

News photo
Toru Hashimoto

"Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda is really something," Hashimoto told reporters Tuesday evening. "He has announced Japan will participate in the Trans-Pacific Partnership talks and will discuss the right to collective self-defense. He is making steady progress on the things he said he will do."

The Osaka mayor also praised Noda for pushing for the successful Diet vote to raise the consumption tax and encouraging debate on social security system reform.

"The consumption tax will, in the end, become a local tax. But Noda has long talked about a regional bloc system. He recognizes that the only thing to do is to pass off control of it to the regional blocs. This is decisive politics," Hashimoto said.

"Political realignment will be carried out by the DPJ and the LDP. There are lots of younger LDP members whose thinking is close to Noda's. If they and Noda's allies in the DPJ get together and form a new political group, it will be quite popular," Hashimoto said.

However, Hashimoto, a fierce critic of Osaka's municipal and prefectural labor unions, said the DPJ's union ties could make any cooperation between his Osaka Ishin no Kai (One Osaka) and Noda supporters difficult.

"Noda's biggest burden is his relationship with labor unions. There's a sense of distance between us and the DPJ on the issue of civil servant labor unions in particular. Ideas are important in politics, but who you get your support from is extremely important," Hashimoto said.

His praise of Noda came just a day before DPJ defector Ichiro Ozawa formed a new party with fellow deserters. Ozawa said Sunday he hoped to join forces with Hashimoto, but many in Osaka Ishin no Kai oppose a tieup with Ozawa, citing policy differences and the kingpin's personality.

Hashimoto remains vague about whether he would agree to a formal alliance with Ozawa's new party after the election.

Candidates backed by Osaka Ishin no Kai hope to capture up to 200 seats, mostly in the Kansai region, in the next Lower House election. Potential coalition allies include Your Party, and those backed by groups in Aichi Prefecture and Nagoya, as well as supporters of Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara, a key Ozawa foe but close Hashimoto ally whom the mayor praised for initiatives like his bid to buy the Senkaku Islands.

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The Japan Times

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