Japan's second largest opposition party, Ishin no To (Japan Innovation Party), suffered a setback on Thursday after party founders Toru Hashimoto and Ichiro Matsui announced they were leaving after a rift with the leadership.
Hashimoto, who is mayor of Osaka, is the party's supreme adviser, while Matsui, who is Osaka governor, also serves as a party adviser.
The rift developed after Secretary-General Mito Kakizawa threw his support behind a candidate in the upcoming Sept 13 mayoral election in Yamagata. Matsui and Hashimoto wanted the party to support another candidate and demanded Kakizawa resign, but he refused.
Japan Innovation Party members hold 40 seats in the lower house of the Diet and 11 in the upper house. Ten of them are close allies of Hashimoto, fueling speculation that they may also leave the party, Fuji TV reported.
The two men have been at odds with the party leadership for some time. Hashimoto and Matsui have a close relationship with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, but the party leadership has been trying to forge an alliance with the main opposition Democratic Party of Japan.
Hashimoto said he will concentrate on regional politics until the end of the year when his term of office expires.© Japan Today