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Friday, Sep. 21, 2012

Two more lawmakers look to join Hashimoto


Staff writer

OSAKA — Two more Diet members have indicated they will tie up with Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto's new political party, which would bring its Diet supporters to nine and put the Democratic Party of Japan's slim Lower House majority in further peril.

Liberal Democratic Party Lower House member Takashi Tanihata, 65, a proportional representative from the Kansai area, and DPJ Lower House member Masato Imai, 50, a proportional representative from the Tokai region, said they were interested in joining Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Restoration Party).

They are expected to join seven other Diet members who have already committed to participating in a discussion this Sunday about the party's platform.

Tanihata, a former vice minister of the Health, Labor, and Welfare Ministry, is considered an expert on Japan's medical and social security systems. Imai, a former banker, is a financial specialist.

"I want to discuss participating in Nippon Ishin no Kai if I'm in agreement with its philosophy and policies," Imai said Wednesday.

Ichiro Matsui, the governor of Osaka and the new party's secretary general, said Thursday that Tanihata and Imai will be watched closely during Sunday's meeting to see whether they agree with the platform.

But according to other party officials, Tanihata and Imai are expected to formally join the new force after the meeting. Both Hashimoto and Matsui said earlier that the premise of the discussion is that only Diet members already judged to be in basic agreement with the party and interested in joining would be invited to attend.

Imai's defection in particular would put further pressure on Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda to dissolve the Diet and call an election. As of Sept. 12, the DPJ had 247 Lower House members, just six above the cutoff line for keeping its majority.

Two of the DPJ's Lower House members have already left to join the new party, and Nippon Ishin no Kai has predicted up to 30 current Diet members from the DPJ, the LDP and other established parties will join in the coming weeks, including many current members from the Kansai region.

Hashimoto's position on certain issues, meanwhile, is becoming clearer. He said on his Twitter account Wednesday that as long as there are rules in place, there is room to discuss participation in local politics by people with special permanent residency status, which generally means the people and their descendants who lost their Japanese nationality after the 1952 San Francisco Peace Treaty. Most of these people are permanent Korean residents.

At the same time, Hashimoto made it clear he opposes participation by foreigners with other kinds of resident status.

In addition, he confirmed it will be a basic policy of Nippon Ishin no Kai not to accept direct political donations from companies, business lobbies or industry associations.

"From here on out, politics should be centered on individual donations," Hashimoto said.

However, party members, including Diet members, will be free to sell tickets to their political fundraising parties to businesses and groups. Hashimoto has a group of corporate supporters, led by former Economic Planning Agency head Taiichi Sakaiya, who have long held such events to raise money for his local political party Osaka Ishin no Kai (One Osaka).



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The Japan Times

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