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Thursday, Oct. 4, 2012
Honeymoon over for Hashimoto's new party
OSAKA — A war of words among the top leaders of Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Restoration Party) over policy differences and who calls the shots has seen Japan's newest national political party get off to a rocky start.
Tensions between Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto, who heads the fledgling party, and some Diet lawmakers who joined it had been building since a public discussion Sept. 23 exposed clear rifts between the two sides over nuclear power, the Trans-Pacific Partnership and how to resolve the territorial disputes with China and South Korea, among other issues.
But they burst into public view last week following reports that the party plans to hand Hashimoto broad powers when it comes time to select candidates for the next general election.
Through the title of a blog posting just before the party held its third public debate, Lower House member Kenta Matsunami, who quit the Liberal Democratic Party and now serves as Nippon Ishin no Kai's secretary general, indicated he would not allow Hashimoto to create a dictatorship.
"Unlike the (first debate), I'm not a visitor any more. I've decided to say what needs to be said, without reservation. Even Hashimoto admits that national policy decisions should be made by the group of Diet members," Matsunami wrote.
Following days of confusion and media polls showing the party's popularity was rapidly dropping, the party's Diet lawmakers and Hashimoto went into damage control mode Wednesday, attempting to clear the air but admitting Nippon Ishin no Kai's honeymoon period is over.
"There were lots of confusing reports about the title of my blog. I met with Hashimoto last weekend and had a long talk," Matsunami told reporters Wednesday in Tokyo. "But as I wrote in the text of the blog, after discussing things we'll move toward a decision and prove there's no reason for everyone to worry."
"There is a clear division of roles between myself and the Diet members," Hashimoto said via his Twitter account. "Even if a discussion turns into a half-hearted fight, a final decision will emerge. Otherwise, all we are is a group of friends who tell each other to remain calm."
However, Hashimoto admitted that tensions and differences between himself and some of the Diet lawmakers in the party are damaging Nippon Ishin no Kai's public image.
"The (party's) bubble is over, and voters, too, need to look at the party calmly. But the game is now afoot," Hashimoto said.
The party will hold its fourth meeting Saturday in Osaka, its home base, with all members in attendance, including its Diet lawmakers.
Meanwhile, former Yokohama Mayor Hiroshi Nakada and former Suginami Ward Mayor Hiroshi Yamada of Tokyo have also officially announced they will join Nippon Ishin no Kai.