Governor Yoshimura’s Retirement Approaching and the Backstory of The Japan Innovation Party’s Representative Election | FRIDAY DIGITAL

Governor Yoshimura’s Retirement Approaching and the Backstory of The Japan Innovation Party’s Representative Election

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Yoshimura and Matsui during the Upper House election in July (Photo by Kyodo News)

The Japan Innovation Party’s first representative election is about to take place, but it is not very exciting.

Three candidates, Yasushi Adachi, a member of the House of Representatives, Mizuho Umemura, a member of the House of Councillors, and Baba Nobuyuki, a co-chairman of the Japan Restoration Association, were to stand for election, but Ichiro Matsui, the party leader, announced his support for Baba at an early stage before the election was announced. As a result, the House of Councilors members Toru Higashi and Toyofumi Yoshida, who had planned to run for the House of Representatives, withdrew their candidacies, and it cannot be denied that the tone of the campaign has been dramatically toned down.

“As it stands now, there is a 99% probability that the election will go to Mr. Baba,” said Mr. Matsui. Matsui spoke of his support for Baba early on, and almost all Diet members are now in Baba’s camp. The new representative Baba will be born with an overwhelming number of votes. It seems that Mr. Matsui has convinced one of the oldest Diet members, Toru Higashi, who was a strong opponent, to abandon his candidacy, and the situation has been decided. One Diet member blurted out, ‘In all seriousness, I would like to consider other options, but if I were to run against another candidate, I would lose my position in the party.’

It is said that the party leaders had long been in favor of Baba’s candidacy. Nevertheless, some say that the reason why other candidates raised their hands was due in large part to the movement of Yoshimura Hirofumi, the party’s vice representative. A member of the Osaka Restoration Association said, “Mr. Yoshimura is not going to run for representative.”

It has been a given for a long time that Mr. Yoshimura would not run for representative. In fact, there have been rumors within the party for some time that Governor Yoshimura might resign. There is a strong possibility that he will not run for governor in the 2023 election, but will change his position and retire when his successor has settled down. If Mr. Yoshimura were to run for representative, he would have almost no chance of winning. However, if it is another legislator, there is still a possibility. That is why the representative election this time had a great deal of significance in terms of how much of a presence he would be able to show in assuming the post of Mr. Matsui.

The same outlook for Governor Yoshimura is heard not only in Osaka, but also within The Japan Innovation Party. A Diet member belonging to The Japan Innovation Party revealed, “Mr. Yoshimura has been a strong advocate of the Osaka Expo.”

Many in the party believe that he will culminate with the Osaka Expo in 2025 and then leave politics. He has been sent out on a nationwide campaign trail for every election, and it is becoming difficult to hide the fact that he is getting tired of it. He has told people around him that he wants to concentrate on Osaka.

Even if he were to leave politics, he would probably be sought after by the media even if he were to work as a TV personality alongside his legal practice, as former representative Toru Hashimoto did. In Osaka, Fumitake Fujita, the secretary general, and Hideyuki Yokoyama, a prefectural assembly member, and in Tokyo, Hayao Onkita, Hirofumi Yanagigase, and others are being promoted to younger positions to see who can be chosen to fill the “post Yoshimura” position. However, it is questionable whether a smooth generational change can be achieved with the resignation of Matsui, who has been the face of the Ishin organization for many years.

In this year’s representative election, Yasushi Adachi, chairman of the political affairs committee, is following in the footsteps of co-chairman Baba. Adachi is known as one of the most policy-savvy members of the party. Adachi, a former bureaucrat in the Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry, is said to be waging an aggressive campaign, including in rural areas.

In order to get The Japan Innovation Party’s votes for Baba, Mr. Adachi has been traveling around the country, contacting local lawmakers to ask for their cooperation and to say hello to them. He was originally a difficult person to approach, but he was very frank and sincere in his tone of voice and pleaded, ‘Please do me a favor. Frankly speaking, my impression of him has changed a lot. Both Mr. Adachi and Mr. Toru Azuma were removed from their key positions by Representative Matsui, and their relationship with Mr. Baba is not good at all. They must be thinking that there is little chance of further advancement under the new administration. I sense that Mr. Adachi is particularly serious about this election.

What is of interest is how the top leadership will organize the party if Matsui, the charismatic leader of the party, steps down and Yoshimura, the party’s nationally popular governor who is the party’s poster child, does not run for president. Most of the Ishin-no-kai members say that there is no one better qualified to represent the party than Baba.

“As the party’s representative, he is required to coordinate with other parties and negotiate with government offices,” said one member, “and I can’t think of anyone else who could do the job. In fact, Baba has a good grasp of internal affairs and has played a coordinating role with the outside world. If the baton is passed on to a younger person who lacks experience at this stage, it is obvious that the balance will collapse. On the other hand, it is also true that there are a certain number of anti-horseback forces. The fact that Mr. Matsui declared his support for Mr. Baba early on in the representative election and worked behind the scenes was also meant to check the factions and power struggles within the party. It also sent the message that the party would come together under Baba’s leadership, without questioning him. That is why we have no other choice but to go with Mr. Baba this time.

The new organization has been laying the groundwork for the new system with sufficient preparation, as if it were a legacy of Matsui’s leadership. However, some of the younger members of The Japan Innovation Party have this to say.

The current system is clearly top-down, and it is not very open for the younger members. How much that will change with the new representative is the point that the younger members are most concerned about. However, judging from the stiff factional management that accompanies the representative election, which could be said to be more than that of the LDP, there may not be any major changes.”

The Japan Innovation Party is closing in on the number one opposition party, having surpassed the Rikken Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) in proportional votes in the July Upper House election. Will the new face of the party accelerate that tailwind? The results of today’s vote on the 27th will be the first step in determining the new Japan Restoration Association.

  • Interview and text by Fumiaki Kurioka Photo by Kyodo News

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