Nobuyuki Baba was elected Saturday as the Japan Innovation Party's new leader, succeeding Ichiro Matsui as he vowed to carry on the conservative party's efforts to become the country's strongest opposition after it fared well in the last two national elections.
Emphasizing continuity with the party's goal of broadening its support base from its stronghold of the Osaka area to the rest of the nation, Baba, who was its co-leader, won by a wide margin ahead of contenders Yasushi Adachi, a former industry ministry official, and Mizuho Umemura, a former freelance announcer.
The 57-year-old House of Representatives member had the support of many of the party's lawmakers and local assembly members, including Matsui, who also serves as Osaka mayor, and Osaka Gov. Hirofumi Yoshimura.
Baba also appointed Yoshimura, the party's vice president, as the new co-leader.
In his post-win speech, Baba pledged to "move forward with reforms and build the party into one that can counter the (ruling) Liberal Democratic Party."
The Japan Innovation Party, on the other hand, is a part of LDP-led, pro-constitutional amendment forces that won a two-thirds majority needed to push for revising the supreme law in last month's House of Councillors election.
The leadership race was the first since the Japan Innovation Party became a national political party with the launch in 2015 of its predecessor, named Initiatives from Osaka, under then Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto.
Baba, who vowed to carry on the reforms that Matsui started in Osaka and expand the party's strength nationwide, touted his accomplishments as a party executive. It significantly increased its parliamentary seats in the July upper house election and last October's House of Representatives election.
Voting rights were given to 586 special party members, who are lawmakers and local assembly members among others, and 19,293 general party members who paid membership fees for 2020 and 2021. Baba won 8,527 of the votes, far ahead of Adachi at 1,158 and Umemura at 1,140.
Matsui has said he plans to resign from politics when his mayoral term ends in April 2023 after the party's bid to reorganize the major western city into a metropolis akin to Tokyo was rejected for a second time in a referendum held in November 2020.