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The newly expanded Democratic Party of Japan was officially launched Monday afternoon with 131 Diet members, making it the largest opposition force.

The new DPJ, which was formed by an amalgamation of four parties — the original DPJ, Minseito (Good Governance Party), Shinto Yuai (Amity Party) and the Democratic Reform Party — held a convention in a Tokyo hotel where four party leaders signed an agreement on the merger.

The party has 93 House of Representatives members and 38 House of Councilors members. It is roughly one-third the size of the Liberal Democratic Party, which has 379 Diet members. The convention also approved the new party executive lineup. Naoto Kan, leader of the former DPJ, will serve as president of the new party, while Minseito head Tsutomu Hata will assume the No. 2 post of secretary general.

At the convention, Kan called for cooperation with all the forces to overthrow the LDP administration of Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto. “We would like to call on all other parties except the LDP to cooperate on policies and on elections and to start discussions on possible cooperation to create a united force to take power,” Kan said.

He explained at a news conference later that he hoped to first prevent the LDP from winning a majority in the coming House of Councilors election and then to forge cooperation between parties to jointly fight the LDP in a House of Representatives election.

Opposition party leaders invited to the convention as guests accepted Kan’s calls positively. Ichiro Ozawa, head of the Liberal Party, criticized the Hashimoto administration, saying the immediate aim is to oust the current administration through cooperation with other opposition forces.

Takenori Kanzaki, leader of Shinto Heiwa (New Peace Party), said he would cooperate if necessary although his party sometimes tries to pursue different policies. While the new DPJ claims to be powerful enough to replace the LDP, it remains to be seen whether the party can gain public support. Opinion polls and recent election outcomes indicate voters are growing weary of “new parties” that have come and gone over the past several years.

The new party will pursue a “democratic and middle-of-the-road” path to create a society in which self-reliant individuals practice “kyosei” or living and working together for the common good, according to its platform.

Concerning international security, it says the axis of Japan’s national defense is the Japan-U.S. security pact and it added that Tokyo and Washington should discuss possible downsizing of U.S. bases in Okinawa in accordance with prevailing circumstances.

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