Ishihara's dramatic move: What does it portend?
Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara announced at a hastily arranged press conference Thursday that he would resign as governor.
He also said he would form a new political party and run in the next House of Representatives election.
Five members of both houses of the Diet from the Sunrise Party of Japan will join his new party.
While denying his party plans to cooperation with Ichiro Ozawa, leader of the People's Life First party, Ishihara indicated his intention of joining hands with other political forces, such as Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Restoration Party), led by Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto.
With a new party, Ishihara aims to create a third major political force to unite conservatives, drawing a line between his party and the Liberal Democratic Party and the Democratic Party of Japan.
Will Ishihara's action, which he calls his "last service to the country," jolt national politics out of the smothering sense of helplessness brought on by unproductive conflict between the ruling and opposition parties?
Factors behind his decision
Regarding the scheme of forming a new party, something he had reportedly decided not to do in the past, Ishihara said in April that he would "start it all over." His turnabout in forming a new party is believed to have much to do with the fact that the issue of the purchase of part of the Senkaku Islands in Okinawa Prefecture, which he had sought persistently as governor, was settled with the recent purchase by the national government.
Ishihara's decision may also have been influenced by the defeat of his eldest son, former LDP secretary general Nobuteru Ishihara, in the LDP's recent presidential election, which removes a major obstacle to Ishihara's forming a new party that would compete with the LDP.
Yet it isn't entirely clear what Ishihara, now 80, intends to achieve by returning to the national political fray, especially at an age when he should be concerned about his health.
At the press conference, Ishihara fiercely criticized the way the nation's bureaucratic system operates, saying, "We must change the rigid system controlled by bureaucrats of the central government."
He also emphasized the need to amend the Constitution, his cherished idea, and to work out measures to reinforce the nation's control of the Senkaku Islands.
We can agree, to a certain extent, on his awareness of problems concerning the current situation of national politics.
Clearer vision needed
However, we want Ishihara to spell out his policies in more concrete detail and lay out his strategies to realize them. As Ishihara, who assumed the governorship following 25-plus years of service as a Diet member, quit his job without completing his fourth term--to which he was elected just last year--to return to national politics, we would like to know more about his thinking.
Takeo Hiranuma, leader of the Sunrise Party, apparently hopes to see a new wind start blowing in politics with "the two leading figures" of "Hashimoto from western Japan and Ishihara from eastern Japan." But things won't be so simple.
While Hashimoto said he has many policies that are in accord with those of Ishihara, he has also said some of Ishihara's statements on nuclear power and energy policies are out of line with his own. Clearly, it is vital to reconcile their policies.
A new party led by a popular head of a local government, such as Ishihara or Hashimoto, is drawing a certain amount of expectation from the public.
This is made possible by the people's strong distrust and discontent with the existing political parties, which have been mired in "politics incapable of making decisions."
Within the DPJ, there is a sense of danger that Ishihara's new party may prompt more members to leave the party. And in the LDP, there is concern that conservative voters may become divided.
We would like to see what sort of ripples of "political reorganization" Ishihara's new party will set in motion.
(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Oct. 26, 2012)