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Tuesday, Oct. 16, 2012

Seeking momentum, Hashimoto meets party chiefs, Ishihara

Staff writer

OSAKA — Osaka Mayor and Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Restoration Party) chief Toru Hashimoto met separately Monday with the heads of all major political parties and with Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara on Saturday in an attempt to regain the momentum his party has lost in recent weeks and to sound out potential coalition partners.

News photo
We have arrived: Toru Hashimoto, mayor of Osaka and head of Nippon Ishin no Kai, puts up a sign bearing the party's name at its Tokyo office Monday. POOL

Hashimoto and Your Party head Yoshimi Watanabe discussed cooperating in the next general election. Your Party has a stronger support base in the Kanto region than Hashimoto and some Nippon Ishin no Kai officials envision their party capturing Diet seats mostly in Kansai and western Japan, and then tying up with Watanabe after a Lower House election.

Hashimoto meanwhile told Liberal Democratic Party chief Shinzo Abe that running in "an election is not in any way easy," as they met at the head office of the largest opposition party, according to an LDP official.

Abe asked Hashimoto about the number of candidates he aims to field for the next election and the mayor responded that he is "in the middle of earnestly selecting" them, the official said.

On Saturday, Hashimoto and Ishihara were joined by Takeo Hiranuma, head of the small, conservative Sunrise Party for a discussion that focused on Nippon Ishin no Kai's plans for the next general election and the possibility of Ishihara and Hiranuma forming a new political party.

Hashimoto told reporters before the meeting he would discuss Japan's participation in the Trans-Pacific Partnership free-trade agreement, the consumption tax hike and energy issues with Ishihara, whose views in all three areas differ from his.

The Ishin no Kai head also has differences with Ishihara and Hiranuma over how to revise the Constitution.

Last week, the three members of Tokyo Ishin no Kai, a small political group close to Ishihara, sparked controversy when they said the Constitution is not valid and called for the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly to recognize the prewar Meiji Constitution.

Hashimoto at first said their comments were not a problem. But he reversed himself and put a formal tieup with Tokyo Ishin no Kai on hold after being heavily criticized by the public and members of his own party.

Despite their differences, Ishihara and Hashimoto continue to speak on a regular basis, fueling speculation that if the two form a new party, some sort of tieup with Nippon Ishin no Kai will occur.

The meeting with Ishihara and Hiranuma, and talks between Hashimoto and Nippon Ishin no Kai Diet members and various party heads came as the fledging Osaka-based party is struggling to regain its momentum.

Media polls show the party is strongly disliked in Tokyo and much of eastern Japan.

Information from Kyodo added

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The Japan Times

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