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Fourth in a series

Staff writer

The Social Democratic Party, which recently terminated its four-year alliance with the Liberal Democratic Party, will not resume such ties after the Upper House elections July 12, SDP Secretary General Shigeru Ito said.

SDP supporters are happy with the breakup and the party is recovering its popularity, Ito said in an interview, noting that the party has already collected more than 5 million signatures from various labor organizations promising support.

“The situation is very different from the one two years ago, when the Lower House elections were held,” Ito said. “I am confident the party will perform well in the election.”

The four-year alliance with the LDP, which started with 1 1/2 years of coalitiongovernment under Socialist leader Tomiichi Murayama, did not necessarily spell more votes for the SDP. In fact, the party has suffered steady declines in voter support in national and local elections in recent years.

The SDP currently holds 20 seats in the Upper House, 12 of which will be contested July 12. Ito said the party is determined to maintain its pre-election strength.

At issue in the election is whether political parties can present a clear vision for the 21st century, Ito said. Specifically, parties must explain to the public who will bear the rising social welfare costs, he said. “A majority of the public wishes for a stable livelihood, good health and a nice community,” he said, adding that tax reform is essential to create a welfare society.

The minimum taxable income level, which is now 4.9 million yen, should be lowered so more people can share the burden of the increasing welfare costs, he said.

In the July elections, voter turnout is predicted to set a record low, possibly below 40 percent. Acknowledging that the SDP bears some responsibility for voter apathy toward the political system, Ito said the party wants to play a role in making politics more attractive.

“Although our party is small, we would like to play a role in gathering a liberal force to counter the conservative force,” Ito said. “Therefore, it is clear we will not build an alliance with the LDP again.” The LDP has become arrogant again after it regained a majority in the Lower House last September for the first time since 1993, he said.

Ito claimed he is championing the so-called olive tree strategy used in Italy, in which opposition parties form a coalition to wrench power after agreeing on a common candidate for prime minister and on key policies. The strategy has enabled Italy’s opposition forces to take power.

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