Shintaro Ishihara (石原慎太郎) has spent the past 13 years as governor of Tokyo and is one of Japan’s most outspokenly nationalist right-wing politicians.
So it was odd, to say the least, to see Hashimoto (pictured above, right) and Ishihara (pictured above, left) merge their two new parties, with Ishihara folding his more stridently right-wing Sunrise Party (太陽の党, Taiyō no Tō) into the Osaka-based, free-market liberal Japan Restoration Party (日本維新の会, Nippon Ishin no Kai). Ishihara became the new leader of the merged Japan Restoration Party, with Hashimoto taking on the deputy leadership.
But given the now-schizophrenic nature of the party’s platform, it seems as if the party — once expected to become a major third party force in elections for Japan’s lower house of the Diet, the House of Representatives — may have turned out to be less than the sum of its parts.
After the Japanese turned out the long-ruling (since 1955!) Liberal Democratic Party of Japan (LDP, or 自由民主党, Jiyū-Minshutō) and are now disillusioned with the opposition Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ, or 民主党, Minshutō), it seemed as if there were an opening for a new politician to ride the same wave to power that the DPJ rode in 2009 — especially for a young politician with Koizumi-level charisma.
But the party seems to be falling short — whereas, even in November, the party was polling in the mid-teens (ahead or even with the DPJ, and the LDP polling between 20% and 25%), it’s now fallen well below 10%, to just 4% in some polls. Notably, most Japanese polls include a wide undecided vote (around 40% to 50%), so it’s important to take those trends with an even bigger grain of salt than we would take polls in the United States.
What that means is instead of fashioning a new opposition, Japan will instead opt for a doubling down on LDP policies under Shinzō Abe (安倍 晋三), who served as prime minister from 2006 to 2007.
If the Japan Restoration Party comes up short on Sunday, it could well frustrate Hashimoto’s career before it has even had a chance to peak. Continue reading Hashimoto’s once-rising Japan Restoration Party falling short as third force in Japanese politics