Major opposition groups have been rocked by intensifying internal strife since the Upper House election, and with the secretaries-general of the Democratic Party of Japan, Your Party and Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Restoration Party) launching a nonpartisan policy study group next week, speculation is flying they might try to form a new party.
However, policy stances of the three key lawmakers — Goshi Hosono of the DPJ, Your Party’s Kenji Eda and Yorihisa Matsuno of Nippon Ishin — still differ markedly, and whether they can gather a substantial number of lawmakers behind them is unclear.
Hosono is regarded as a center-left liberal, whereas Nippon Ishin’s members have advocated right-leaning, significantly more nationalistic policies.
Each of the three parties is riven by infighting, and many of their members are exploring ways to form a new political force able to survive in a Diet completely controlled by the Liberal Democratic Party-New Komeito ruling bloc following its landslide victory in Sunday’s House of Councilors poll.
On Friday, Hosono quit as secretary general of the DPJ, the largest opposition party. DPJ President Banri Kaieda had earlier turned down Hosono’s offer to resign to take responsibility for the party’s shattering election loss.
Hosono had initially planned to resign at the end of August, but he moved up the schedule after DPJ members started arguing he should be punished for meeting Sunday — on the day of the election — with Eda and Matsuno, the DPJ’s campaign foes.
As for Eda, his personal relations with Your Party chief Yoshimi Watanabe have become heavily strained amid a leadership struggle and the two have barely communicated recently.
The chasm within the minor opposition group seemed to reach a critical point Thursday, when both Eda and Watanabe held separate news conferences and publicly assailed each other.
Watanabe ripped into Eda for holding meetings with Hosono and Matsuno at the same time he was refusing to report to his party leader.
“It’s too early to rush for a realignment of political forces,” Watanabe said. “I have asked Eda to report (to me what’s going on), but he hasn’t responded yet. If he is (promoting political realignment) as an individual, he should do that after quitting (his secretary-general post).”
Eda told reporters : “Nothing has been decided, so I don’t need to report anything (to Watanabe). I don’t understand what ‘too early’ means.”
Nippon Ishin, meanwhile, has long been divided between followers of its two co-leaders, Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto and former Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara.
On July 18, Hashimoto made a stir by saying in an election campaign speech that “some part the DPJ, some part of Your Party and some part of Nippon Ishin will become a certain (political) force for sure” to push for administrative reforms. The remark has been widely interpreted to indicate that Hashimoto prefers splitting the party and forming a new group with certain members of Nippon Ishin, the DPJ and Your Party.
“Opposition parties should combine forces to become one. Otherwise, it won’t be good for the country,” Hashimoto told a news conference Sunday. “It’s the duty of their members to create an alternative opposition party that can realize a change of administration.”
In November, in preparation for the following month’s general election, Nippon Ishin merged with Ishihara’s Taiyo no To (Sunrise Party), which had only been created days earlier, absorbing all of its Diet members.
Ever since, Nippon Ishin has been plagued by miscommunication and a lack of exchanges between Hashimoto followers in Osaka and Tokyo-based veteran lawmakers backing Ishihara.