Despite the backing of the Liberal Democratic Party, the Japanese Communist Party and the Democratic Party of Japan, challenger Takako Kurihara lost the governor’s race to the incumbent, Osaka Ishin-backed Ichiro Matsui, by about 1 million of roughly 3.9 million votes cast. However, the real shock was the defeat of LDP-, JCP- and DPJ-backed Akira Yanagimoto by Hashimoto’s hand-picked successor as mayor, Hirofumi Yoshimura.
Yanagimoto enjoyed a high profile as the voice of opposition to Osaka Ishin. He was strongly supported by his uncle, Upper House member Takuji Yanagimoto, and the LDP faction of Wakayama-based LDP General Council Chairman Toshihiro Nikai, to which he belongs. Other LDP heavyweights, including policy chief Tomomi Inada, who has been touted as Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s favored successor, also came to Osaka to stump on his behalf.
But Yanagimoto lost by almost 200,000 votes out of the more than 1 million cast. LDP officials, especially Nikai, who tried to help Yanagimoto by announcing his support for a vague public works project that would help ensure the nation’s first commercial high-speed maglev line gets extended to Osaka.
“We humbly accept the losses, and will analyze the reasons for them,” said Toshimitsu Motegi, an LDP Upper House member and the party’s election committee chief.
Yet while the LDP got trounced, the news was not necessarily bad for Abe and Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, who have grown close to Hashimoto and Matsui and see them as allies in their efforts to revise the Constitution and inject conservative, and often revisionist, views of history into the education system.
Hashimoto himself told voters the LDP’s Osaka candidates are very different from Abe.Japan Times
“The LDP of Shinzo Abe and the LDP’s Osaka chapter are chalk and cheese. It’s Abe’s LDP that has the power to get things done,” he told voters last week while stumping for Yoshimura.
Tomoaki Iwai, professor of politics at Tokyo's Nihon University, told AFP: "Observing Hashimoto's outstanding popularity in the elections, Prime Minister Abe is expected to try to keep Hashimoto on his side."
The two politicians have shared ideas on amending the constitution imposed by the United States after World War II.AP/Channel News Asia
The Mainichi Shimbun newspaper said the double victory would allow Hashimoto to regain his political influence amid speculation that he would run in national elections himself in a bid to expand his party's presence in parliament and re-launch the Osaka reform plan.
The close political cooperative relationship between Abe and Hashimoto has engineered a complete breakdown in coordination and trust between the Osaka chapters of the LDP and the national LDP headquarters. The LDP in Osaka ran its own candidates in the double election, asking for and receiving electoral support from blood rivals the Democratic Party of Japan and the Japan Communist Party. The election also caused a minor split between national allies the LDP and Komeito, with the Osaka Komeito chapter releasing its supporters to vote for whomever they wished.
Third, even with their victories in the executive branch posts, the Osaka Ishin no Kai still lacks enough seats in the prefectural and municipal assemblies to initiate the metro area plan. Osaka Ishin no Kai will still need cooperation from another party, ostensibly the Komeito since they are the enemies of just about everybody else.
Tactically, Prime Minister Abe's embrace of Hashimoto seems a disaster. He has made enemies of the LDP establishment in Osaka, Japan's second city.
Strategically, however, Abe's continued encouragement of Hashimoto's efforts hurts the national forces of opposition. As long as Hashimoto and his acolytes are in operation, the Kansai region has its own, home-grown opposition to the LDP. With the Ishin no Kai and the LDP slugging it out, perhaps good-naturedly (if Abe invests the time to bring the two sides to a truce) in the Kansai, the DPJ will have forego making a play for the Kansai's rich harvest of seats, making the path to becoming a worthwhile national challenger to the LDP all the harder.
The Sunday winners owned their victory to Hashimoto’s continued Ishin-style politics. However, Hashimoto’s political style, which pushes through his plans by fiercely attacking opponents and inflaming disputes, has caused a deep chasm between the people who support Hashimoto or Osaka Ishin no Kai and those that oppose them.
A senior official of the Osaka city government said: “Under the Hashimoto style, which prefers confrontation over dialogue, there have been numerous cut-throat political struggles.”
Hashimoto also clearly distinguished between the Prime Minister’s Office and the LDP’s Osaka prefectural federation, saying during street speeches: “The LDP led by Abe and the LDP in Osaka are completely different. The LDP led by Abe has the ability to get things done.”
His remarks indicated a desire to maintain a good relationship with the prime minister, and draw in supporters of the LDP.
Osaka Ishin no Kai — a new national party led by Hashimoto — is supportive of Abe’s policies, including revision of the Constitution, and it will help Abe manage his administration if Osaka Ishin no Kai retains a certain number of seats in the House of Councillors election. A key member of the government said Osaka Ishin no Kai is also “a convenient presence” for dividing opposition parties.Yomiuri
Osaka Ishin no Kai does not hold a majority in the prefectural assembly or the city assembly. We hope both Matsui and Yoshimura will have thorough discussions even with people who hold different views, to win their understanding and draw up a course of action for rejuvenating Osaka.
Hashimoto left the Japan Innovation Party and established in late October a new national political party called Osaka Ishin no Kai [with the “Osaka” in its name written in hiragana, unlike the regional party with the Osaka written in kanji]. Riding the crest of the victories in the double elections, he will aim to maintain and even expand his political clout.
Nineteen legislators will join the new national party. Hashimoto, after retiring from politics [upon completing his term of office in December], is likely to be an “adviser on legal policy” for the new party, to retain his influence.
The new national party is also considering cooperating with the Abe administration. It is important for the party to present counterproposals and spar verbally in a constructive manner.
Such an intention to be a “responsible opposition party” would help the party differentiate itself clearly from the DPJ and the JCP, both of which oppose everything the administration does, and demonstrate its presence.