The Democratic Party of Japan and Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Restoration Party) hold the key to whether efforts to bring together a political force that can rival the Liberal Democratic Party will succeed.
A focal point in politics this year will be whether a viable opposition force can be mustered to rival the LDP.
Yui no To, a new party launched last month by Your Party defectors, is poised to become a catalyst for the effort to realign the opposition.
This won’t be easy, as the opposition parties have their own interests.
Yui no To leader Kenji Eda envisages the creation of a group of some 100 lawmakers in the fall to prepare for quadrennial unified local elections in spring 2015.
He aims to first launch a new party with Nippon Ishin around the end of this year’s Diet session, probably in late June. Then, he hopes the new party will be joined by some DPJ lawmakers in the summer or later.
Eda plans to soon begin full-scale preparations for the move, including crafting common policies, at a cross-party study group that he recently set up with former DPJ Secretary-General Goshi Hosono and Nippon Ishin lawmaker Yorihisa Matsuno.
Some Nippon Ishin members are set to consider Eda’s move. Nippon Ishin co-leader Toru Hashimoto has said he is ready to dissolve the party to achieve an opposition realignment.
Eda shares many policy goals with Hashimoto and Matsuno, including reforming the country’s governing system and abolishing nuclear power.
But other Nippon Ishin lawmakers who were once members of the now-defunct Sunrise Party, including co-leader Shintaro Ishihara, are cautious about opposition realignment.
Their policies include revising war-renouncing Article 9 of the Constitution and the continued use of nuclear energy, similar to those pursued by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
Eda wants to exclude those former Sunrise Party members from the new party. He insists that a political party will be unsuccessful if it brings in people with different views simply to secure an adequate number of members.
Hashimoto is unwilling to break with Ishihara. But a senior Nippon Ishin lawmaker said the party will be forced to split.
In the DPJ, leader Banri Kaieda and other executives, who have said that it is important for the party to become a leading player in any attempt to realign opposition parties, have shown indifference to Eda’s move.
Hosono and Seiji Maehara, a senior party member and former foreign minister, who has repeatedly met with Hashimoto, stand apart from the DPJ leadership with the aim of taking the initiative on realignment of opposition parties.
Some DPJ members said that Kaieda may be replaced as early as this summer if the party’s public support remains low.
Eda and his allies aim to closely look at how the DPJ will move this summer or later.
But one senior DPJ official said that the party will not be easily split as it has the support of local organizations and the Japanese Trade Union Confederation, the umbrella organization of labor unions, known as Rengo.
Your Party leader Yoshimi Watanabe has criticized Eda’s move as a “cut-and-paste realignment.”
Your Party’s leadership has no intention to permit 13 lawmakers who joined Yui no To to defect from its parliamentary groups.