Leaders of Ishin no To (Japan Innovation Party) and the Democratic Party of Japan agreed Monday to bolster cooperation in the Diet and future elections, with the aim of uniting opposition forces to challenge the ruling camp.
The move by the two largest opposition parties, with Ishin on the verge of breaking up, is likely to accelerate the realignment of the opposition camp ahead of next summer’s Upper House election. But it is still unclear whether they can successfully create an opposition bloc powerful enough to face the coalition of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party and Komeito, given that there are people in both opposition parties hesitant to work closely together and fear a possible merger.
DPJ President Katsuya Okada and Ishin leader Yorihisa Matsuno said the two parties will set up a framework after the end of the current Diet session in late September for talks about cooperating on elections and various policies.
“We agreed that we will bolster our cooperation in every field going forward to bring together opposition forces to challenge the LDP,” Matsuno told reporters following his talks with Okada in the Diet building. “The opposition camp must cooperate together in the Diet currently comprised of one strong party with other weak parties.”
Matsuno said his aim is not to merge with the DPJ, but rather to create a “big opposition force” in the Diet. “My goal has been to bring together 100 Diet members (to create an opposition bloc) by the end of this year, and that hasn’t changed a bit.”
Okada said the two parties must also cooperate in the current Diet session in order to scrap the contentious security legislation that would expand the overseas role of the Self-Defense Forces. “Cooperation among the opposition parties is crucial,” he said.
Meanwhile, Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto, who left Ishin last week together with Osaka Gov. Ichiro Matsui, is set to form a new national party by the end of October. Among Ishin’s 51 Diet members, 12 based in Osaka are expected to join up with Hashimoto. He is reportedly aiming to lure over 20 Ishin members to join the new party.
The new national party will be based on Osaka Ishin no Kai, Hashimoto’s local party that is comprised of members from the Osaka municipal and prefectural assemblies.
If Hashimoto’s new party succeeds in winning many seats in next year’s Upper House election, it would greatly benefit Abe and move him closer to achieving his long-held goal of revising the postwar Constitution. Hashimoto has voiced support for the LDP’s revision plans.
Two-thirds support in both chambers of the Diet is required to hold a national referendum on amending the Constitution.
The LDP and Komeito currently control 324 of the Lower House’s 475 seats, or better than two-thirds. In the 242-seat Upper House, LDP and Komeito hold 133 seats, a little better than half.
Meanwhile, the DPJ holds 72 seats in the Lower House, while Ishin has 40. In the Upper House, the DPJ has 58 and Ishin controls 11.