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Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2012

ELECTION 2012

Nippon Ishin leaders send mixed signals about postelection mergers


Staff writer

OSAKA — Confusion continues about what Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Restoration Party) will do after Sunday's Lower House election, with top leaders making contradictory statements over whether they would join forces with the Liberal Democratic Party to possibly form a two-thirds majority in both Diet chambers.

At the same time, Nippon Ishin remains open to a postelection merger with Your Party, despite the insistence of that party's leader, Yoshimi Watanabe, such a deal is not going to happen.

A two-thirds majority is needed in both the Lower and Upper houses to revise the Constitution, a long-sought goal of Nippon Ishin leader Shintaro Ishihara. He said last week that if the LDP sounds out Nippon Ishin after the election about joining a coalition government, the request would get positive consideration.

That touched off speculation that the two parties together might have 360 Lower House seats, enough for a two-thirds majority, but such a majority would still be needed in the Upper House to revise the Constitution. Nippon Ishin is already starting to lay plans for the next Upper House election, which must be held next summer.

Despite Ishihara's enthusiasm, Osaka Gov. Ichiro Matsui, the No. 3 man in Nippon Ishin, is rather reluctant about joining hands with the LDP.

LDP President Shinzo Abe and New Komeito, a likely partner of the LDP after the election, have also indicated that Nippon Ishin will not be part of the ruling coalition.

"Ishihara is not thinking of a coalition either," Matsui told reporters late last week, saying it had been unanimously decided during last month's merger talks between Ishihara's old party, Taiyo no To, and Nippon Ishin to stop pushing individual members' pet positions.

Matsui's statement marked the second time he was forced to deny that an Ishihara comment equaled a formal change in party policy. The first time came after Ishihara said he would revise the party platform that says it will get Japan to fade out of nuclear power by the 2030s.

Late last week Matsui indicated Nippon Ishin was still open to merging with Your Party after the election. Before the campaign began, Your Party and Nippon Ishin, whose policies are similar, had been discussing pre- and postelection cooperation.

However, Watanabe and Ishihara have fundamentally different views on key issues, and the Your Party leaders wanted to remain a separate party.

Tensions are growing between Nippon Ishin's "Tokyo faction" of Ishihara and his allies, like former Tachiagare Nippon head Takeo Hiranuma, and the "Osaka faction" of Hashimoto, Ma tsui and Osaka-based members. Watanabe has told voters it was a good thing he did not merge with Nippon Ishin.



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