Baba elected new leader of Japanese opposition Nippon Ishin

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Nobuyuki Baba speaks at a press conference in Osaka after elected as new leader of Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Innovation Party) on Saturday.

OSAKA (Jiji Press) — Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Innovation Party) co-leader Nobuyuki Baba was elected new chief of the Japanese opposition party Saturday.

At a press conference after the leadership election to pick the successor to Ichiro Matsui, Baba, 57, said he will name deputy party chief Hirofumi Yoshimura, governor of Osaka Prefecture, as co-leader of the party.

Baba, a member of the House of Representatives, also said that he aims to double the number of the party’s local assembly members other than in Osaka Prefecture to about 300 through unified local elections next spring.

Upon being elected, Baba said, “I want to advance reforms of Nippon Ishin steadily to make it a party that can compete on par with the (ruling) Liberal Democratic Party.”

At the press conference, Baba said that he is ready to succeed Matsui’s policies and boost the party’s presence further. He also said the party will deal with the administration of Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, also LDP president, on a case-by-case basis while continuing to call for reforms such as reducing the number of the country’s lawmakers.

Under its strategy announced earlier, Nippon Ishin aims to increase the number of its local assembly members to 600 from some 400 at present — 250 in Osaka and 150 elsewhere — as part of efforts to transform itself into a party with a nationwide presence.

Baba said he wants Yoshimura to shore up Nippon Ishin’s political activities in Osaka and support him as co-leader of the party.

In response, Yoshimura told reporters that he will work hard to meet the request from the new party leader.

Baba said he plans to keep incumbent party executives in their current posts, including Secretary-General Fumitake Fujita.

Saturday’s leadership election was the first for Nippon Ishin since its founding.

The voting took place at a party meeting held in the city of Osaka.

In the election, one vote was given to each of 586 special party members, including Diet and regional assembly members, and 19,293 rank-and-file members.

Baba garnered 8,527 votes, defeating his two competitors — Lower House member Yasushi Adachi, 56, policy chief for Nippon Ishin lawmakers, and Mizuho Umemura, 43, a member of the House of Councillors, the upper chamber of the Diet. Adachi and Umemura collected 1,158 and 1,140 votes, respectively.

Meanwhile, 229 votes were invalid.