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Defeat Leaves Osaka Movement in Disarray

By Jasper Tolsma

SNA (Tokyo) — The political consequences of Toru Hashimoto’s failure to convince the Osakans to vote in favour of his unification plan might reach beyond the borders of his constituency. In the aftermath of the referendum it became clear that not only Hashimoto’s own political career was tied to the result. His political leader, Kenji Eda, head of the Japan Innovation Party, also resigned in a surprise move after the Osaka unification plan was voted down.

Eda issued a brief statement that the party’s support for Hashimoto’s efforts hadn’t been enough and that the party leader should take responsibility for that. Former Secretary-General Yorihisa Matsuno has become Eda’s successor as party leader.

Hashimoto Defeat

Toru Hashimoto

Now that Hashimoto’s influence within the Japan Innovation Party is declining, it leaves Prime Minister Shinzo Abe guessing about the party’s stance on constitutional revision. Abe will need the JIP’s support to gain the necessary two-thirds majority in both houses to pass his revisions, but without Hashimoto’s support analysts question the prospects.

The defeat itself can be traced to many factors, including concerns over social welfare policies. At any rate, Hashimoto was left empty-handed, losing by only a narrow margin of about 10,000 votes out of 1.4 million votes cast.

In the run up to the elections polls showed that although the margin between the pro-unification and those in the opposing camp was small, a 70% majority thought that Hashimoto’s explanations of his plans were insufficient. Also, 30% of voters stated that they didn’t understand the consequences of the unification plans well enough.

This critique was echoed by the media prior to the elections, but Hashimoto has denied that his efforts were in any way below par. On his Twitter account he stated: “I’ve been going to a lot of town meetings so my efforts aren’t lacking, but if there are still people who don’t know about this plan it’s the media’s fault. Therefore the real question is who is responsible for not informing the public: me or the media?”

It is yet unclear what the Osaka government will do now that unification seems to be out of the question.

Although Toru Hashimoto has announced that his departure from politics would be permanent, stating he wanted to reprise his career as a lawyer, many believe that he will not be able to resist an eventual reentry to the political arena—although it remains to be seen in what capacity.

Jasper Tolsma is a contributing writer to the Shingetsu News Agency.