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Ichiro Matsui to remain at helm of Japan Innovation Party

Opposition group points to upper house elections under guidance of Osaka mayor

Ichiro Matsui's small party is edging away from the opposition bloc on some issues and closer to the ruling camp.   © Reuters

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- The Japan Innovation Party on Saturday decided to keep Ichiro Matsui as its leader after party members voted against holding a leadership election.

Party rules state that a decision has to be made on whether to hold a leadership race within 45 days of a national election. The House of Representatives election that was held on Oct. 31 saw the party nearly quadruple the number of its lower house seats.

With no viable successor to the 57-year-old, who is also Osaka mayor, the small opposition party now aims to bolster its strength toward an upper house election next summer.

"I will continue to make my utmost efforts to realize our policy items," Matsui told the party's convention held in Osaka, the western Japan city that is home to the party's headquarters.

Matsui is expected to push for administrative reform, a key policy agenda of the opposition party, and parliamentary debate on revising the country's Constitution.

The party has drawn a line with other opposition parties that have joined forces to counter the Liberal Democratic Party led by Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and its coalition partner Komeito, and is closer to the LDP on issues such as constitutional reform.

Japan Innovation Party members hope to broaden their support by expanding the party's support base from Osaka and its vicinity to the rest of the nation.

The popularity of Osaka Gov. Hirofumi Yoshimura, who had increased media exposure during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, has been seen as a tailwind for the opposition party. But Yoshimura, the party's deputy leader, said he did not intend to run even if a leadership race was held.

Matsui picked Secretary General Nobuyuki Baba to serve as co-leader, replacing Toranosuke Katayama. The 86-year-old upper house member is expected to resign as a lawmaker due to illness, Matsui said.

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