At the center of a possible realignment of the opposition camp, former Your Party Secretary-General Kenji Eda managed to gather some 50 Diet lawmakers Tuesday when he launched a policy study group expected to lead to a new party.
Eda resigned from Your Party Monday — along with 13 fellow lawmakers — after his relationship with party leader Yoshimi Watanabe soured over the direction of the small opposition party.
Party executives rejected Eda’s resignation, and will try to persuade the other 13 to stay as well. But it’s unlikely the renegade lawmakers will change their minds, party sources said.
The study group on regulatory reform and promotion of local autonomy was inaugurated by Eda, Goshi Hosono of the Democratic Party of Japan and Yorihisa Matsuno of Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Restoration Party) — three figures seen as up-and-coming opposition leaders.
“It is very meaningful to show our solidarity in order to assure people that a change of government is possible, and to build a relationship of trust,” Hosono told the meeting.
Eda said that overcoming policy differences could lead to “political realignment and the creation of a new party.”
The group, named Kitoku Keneki wo Daha Suru Kai — which translates roughly as Association to Break Down Vested Interests — managed to gather 50 lawmakers at its launch. They aim to recruit up to 100 members, achieving a size that can’t be ignored.
At this stage, study group membership does not entail changing party affiliation. But sources close to the group said the next step is to discuss a new party name, its policy pillars and other things to formally launch a party.
Tuesday’s development could become a catalyst for change in the political arena, especially when the opposition is struggling against the numerically dominant Liberal Democratic Party-New Komeito ruling bloc in both Diet chambers.
But pundits critical of the move say this is only a “marriage of convenience” for money. Parties need to apply by year’s end to receive state subsidies for next year.
The exit by Eda and his colleagues revealed a deep internal division in Your Party. The rift became unbridgeable when Watanabe sought to bring the party closer to LDP Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s administration over the contentious state secrets law enacted late last week.
Eda has long been at odds with Watanabe over how to manage Your Party and achieve an opposition realignment. Eda stepped down as party secretary-general in August after their conflict intensified.
His departure from the party could weaken Watanabe’s power base in the party, amid growing discontent about the leader’s inclination toward Abe.