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Tuesday, Sep. 25, 2012
Hashimoto's party, barely out of the starting gate, already hitting snags
OSAKA — Even as Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto makes plans to expand his Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Restoration Party) beyond its Osaka base, media polls indicate his popularity bubble may have burst and the party's road to the next Lower House election will not be easy.
On Sunday, Hashimoto held the second of what he says will be a series of discussions with current Diet members and other supporters of the party. Seven Diet members have committed to the new party and another two, Takashi Tanihata from the Liberal Democratic Party and Masato Imai from the Democratic Party of Japan, attended Sunday's discussion on foreign and defense policy and are expected to join up with Hashimoto soon.
The party will open a Tokyo office Tuesday headed by former LDP Lower House member Nobuhiro Omiya. Once all nine Diet members have finalized their membership in the fledgling party, they plan to join Hashimoto for a series of speeches around the country next month to garner support.
But if polls over the past two weeks are accurate, the reception they get could be colder than expected just a couple months ago. Criticism is growing of both the party's policies — which have been blasted as vague, unrealistic, or both — and the debates themselves, which include only participants who agree with Hashimoto.
Recent polls show that the party's support in the Tokyo area has dropped dramatically since the first debate two weeks ago. One poll by Fuji TV indicated support had fallen from 9.4 percent on Sept. 13 to 4.8 percent on Sept. 20.
Other polls conducted in the past two weeks showed that the party's support rate nationwide was running between 2 and 5 percent, far behind both the LDP and DPJ.
Hashimoto has admitted that the first debate, held Sept. 9, received a lot of criticism for not delving deeply into the issues and for being less a debate and more an effort to ensure everybody was on the same page. But Sunday's debate drew criticism as well. The inclusion of noted TV journalist Soichiro Tahara as an invited guest was meant to liven up the debate, but some critics said his presence turned the event into little more than entertainment.
Bloggers and headlines Monday in Osaka indicated that while the debate was lively, Hashimoto's conservative supporters were angered by his suggestion that Takeshima be jointly managed by Japan and South Korea.