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Timeline of Hashimoto Parties in National Politics

SNA (Tokyo) — Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto was still near the peak of his popularity when he announced in September 2012 that he would be moving into national politics. Simply by putting out the call, enough lawmakers gathered to his banner to establish a new political party meant to represent the One Osaka’s interests at the national level.

Today, in an echo from three years ago, Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto is once again signalling his intention to launch a new political party meant to represent One Osaka’s interests at the national level.

Now, however, the young mayor is supposedly on the verge of retirement, his central policy objective of Osaka unification has failed, and his national popularity has declined sharply. Following is a timeline that traces how Hashimoto went full circle in only three years, but the second time as farce:

September 2012 – Japan Restoration Party launches with seven lawmakers who defected from other parties, hoping to take advantage of Toru Hashimoto’s formidable charisma.

October 2012 – Now increased to nine lawmakers, Yorihisa Matsuno, who defected from the Democratic Party of Japan, becomes leader of the party’s national lawmakers, though under Hashimoto’s overall authority.

November 2012 – Toru Hashimoto forms an alliance with Shintaro Ishihara, who merges his Sunrise Party into the incipient Japan Restoration Party and becomes the merged party’s first president.

Hashihara Laugh

Toru Hashimoto and Shintaro Ishihara on the campaign trail

December 2012 – In the national elections that brought Shinzo Abe and the Liberal Democratic Party roaring back into power, the Japan Restoration Party does reasonably well, gaining 54 seats in the House of Representatives and breathing down the neck of the Democratic Party of Japan, which gained 57 seats.

January 2013 – Toru Hashimoto and Shintaro Ishihara become “Joint Presidents” of the Japan Restoration Party. They strengthen Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s political position by offering themselves as a potential partner for constitutional revision and by prodding him from the political right.

May 2013 – Toru Hashimoto garners international condemnation by asserting that the system of wartime comfort women was “necessary” for Japanese soldiers. While many events eventually turned the national public from admiring Hashimoto to disliking him, this was the most notable turning point.

July 2013 – Japan Restoration Party performs below expectations in House of Councillors elections, gaining only 9 seats. This compares to the 59 seats won by the Democratic Party of Japan. Much of the blame is attributed to Hashimoto’s declining national popularity.

May 2014 – After a series of escalating disputes between the “Joint Presidents,” Toru Hashimoto and Shintaro Ishihara agree to split the Japan Restoration Party. Of the 60 lawmakers that the party had at the time, 38 choose to follow Hashimoto and 22 leave with Ishihara.

September 2014 – Hashimoto’s remaining wing of the Japan Restoration Party merges with Kenji Eda’s Unity Party. The new organization is renamed the Japan Innovation Party, led at the national level by Eda. It launches with 52 national lawmakers, confirming its status as the second-largest opposition party.

December 2014 – In the snap general election unexpectedly called by Prime Minister Abe, the Japan Innovation Party largely holds its ground. The net result is a loss of one seat in the House of Representatives.

May 2015 – With the defeat of the Osaka unification referendum, Hashimoto proclaims his intention to retire from politics at the end of the year. Kenji Eda takes responsibility for the defeat as well by resigning as Japan Innovation Party leader. Yorihisa Matsuno is selected to head the national party.

August 2015 – Toru Hashimoto resigns from the Japan Innovation Party that he himself founded and encourages its 10 Osaka-based lawmakers to leave together with him. Hashimoto declares his intention to create a new national party based on the smaller Osaka group.

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