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REIJI YOSHIDA, THE JAPAN TIMES

In a dramatic move sure to change the landscape of the nation’s politics, the center-left Democratic Party decided Sept. 28 to effectively disband its Lower House caucus and join Kibo no To (Party of Hope), a new conservative party led by Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike.

The effective sudden death of the nation’s largest opposition force could turn the Oct. 22 Lower House election into a two-way race between conservative forces: Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party and Kibo no To.

Public support for the DP has been dwindling for months, and the party was widely predicted to suffer a crushing defeat in the upcoming vote.

The proposal to shift allegiance to Koike’s movement, made by party president Seiji Maehara, was unanimously approved at a general meeting of DP lawmakers the same day. Under the plan, all DP candidates for the general election have been asked to abandon party membership and apply to join the official ticket of Kibo no To.

But it remains unclear how many DP applicants will be accepted by Kibo no To. During a TV interview on Sept. 27, Koike, a right-leaning conservative, said her party will choose applicants from the DP after close consideration of their views on constitutional revision and security issues.

This means the powerful Lower House could be dominated by two major conservative parties after the Oct. 22 election, observers say.

“I made this proposal after thinking about what would realize a change in power again,” Maehara told DP lawmakers during the meeting. “We need to end Abe’s administration and create a two-party system.”

According to Maehara’s plan, the DP will give “full support” to Koike’s party in election campaigns, including financial support for former DP members running on the Kibo no To ticket.

Upper House DP members will retain their party membership and organizations.

Ruling-party lawmakers were quick to criticize Maehara’s move as political maneuvering that failed to secure agreement with Kibo no To on key policy points.

“What’s really important is not the combination of parties, but what policy proposals they advocate. Voters are interested in that point and will judge accordingly” in the election, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told a news conference Thursday.

Koike’s party, which launched on Sept. 25, has so far advocated few concrete policy proposals in public, except for freezing the consumption tax hike planned for October 2019 and abandoning nuclear power at some point in the future.

During a Sept. 28 news conference, Maehara said he has reached agreement with Koike on some policy issues and is optimistic about forming consensus on security issues. He didn’t offer details.

First published in The Japan Times on Sept. 28.

Warm up

One-minute chat about political news you’re interested in.

Game

Collect words related to voting, e.g., poll, political party, candidate.

New words

1) caucus: a group of politicians, e.g., “She is a member of the U.S. Congress’ black caucus.”

2) dwindle: to shrink, e.g., “Their impact is now dwindling.”

3) allegiance: loyalty, e.g., “They swear allegiance to their country.”

Guess the headline

Democratic Party effectively di_ _ _ _ _s, throwing support behind K_ _ _ _’s party for Lower House poll

Questions

1) Who in the party does the decision made by DP affect?

2) How did Kibo no To react to the decision?

3) What reason did DP President Seiji Maehara give for the disbanding the party?

Let’s discuss the article

1) What do you think about the DP’s decision?

2) What impact do you think the decision will have on Japanese politics?

3) What do you expect from politicians in Japan?

Reference

東京での勢いを全国に広げようと結成された新党により、日本の政治が大きく変わりそうです。衆議院の解散総選挙を前に敵味方の線引きが見直され、勝つための力をつけようという方針でしょう。政策あってこその政治家ですが、選挙に勝たなければ政策の実行もできないという面もあるのでしょう。政治家と彼ら政治家を選ぶ有権者はどのように政治と向かい合って行けばよいのでしょうか。

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