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Nippon Ishin leader admits 'lack of strength' after Hope partnership flops at polls

Nippon Ishin leader Ichiro Matsui is seen in the city of Osaka's Kita Ward on Oct. 22, 2017. (Mainichi)

Nippon Ishin (Japan Innovation Party) went into the Oct. 22 general election coordinating candidates with Party of Hope leader and Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike, banking on her messaging prowess to help sweep more Ishin candidates into office along with the expected wave of new Hope lawmakers. Instead, the Party of Hope lost steam on the campaign's homestretch, and Nippon Ishin with it.

"Just as we always have, we must deal with the situation on an issue by issue basis," Ishin leader and Osaka Gov. Ichiro Matsui told reporters in Osaka on election night.

For this election, Nippon Ishin did not field any candidates in Hope's supposed stronghold of Tokyo, and Koike's party did not confront Ishin on its home turf in Osaka. However, Ishin only ran 47 single-seat constituency candidates total, compared to Hope's nearly 200. Furthermore, the parties did compete in constituencies outside Tokyo and Osaka.

"This (election) showed our lack of strength," Matsui said.

Ishin jumped into national politics for the 2012 House of Representatives election, taking 54 seats and becoming the second-largest opposition party after the now-defunct Democratic Party of Japan. Since then, however, Ishin's strength has waned, due in part to internal confrontations. The loss of the party's famed founder Toru Hashimoto, the former mayor of Osaka who later quit politics, was also a blow. Despite being hobbled, Ishin looked to boost its appeal to independent voters with a loose alliance with the Party of Hope.

"If we hadn't coordinated (with Hope), our party would have sunk," an Ishin executive told the Mainichi Shimbun.

Ishin has capitalized on its ties with ruling Liberal Democratic Party leader and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga in its attempts to realize policy measures. In turn, the Abe administration expects Ishin to cooperate in its drive to amend the Constitution. Matsui told reporters, "We will put Article 9 to intraparty debate," referring to the war-renouncing article of Japan's postwar Constitution.

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