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In an apparent effort to boost their leverage against the ruling coalition, leaders of two opposition parties on Wednesday expressed eagerness to push forward with a plan to form a joint parliamentary group among the Democratic Party of Japan, the Liberal Party and the Social Democratic Party.

But many sources within the opposition parties admitted that the idea may be unrealistic in the short term, considering the hurdles the parties must clear, such as their different positions on such policy issues as security.

“I myself believe that we should leave the door open for further consideration on whether (the plan) is possible,” DPJ leader Yukio Hatoyama told a news conference.

Hatoyama had expressed reluctance toward the idea after the opposition was defeated in by-elections held last month even though the three parties campaigned together in some of the campaigns.

However, mounting calls within the DPJ for him to resign by the end of the year have apparently led him to shift his position in hopes that a joint parliamentary group will work as a centripetal force to unite his party.

“Some people say that forming a solid system of cooperation among the opposition parties will be effective in strengthening the DPJ itself,” Hatoyama said. “Many efforts are under way to regenerate the party and unite the opposition.”

Meanwhile, Liberal Party leader Ichiro Ozawa stressed the need to cooperate in national-level elections in competing against the Liberal Democratic Party-led coalition and eventually overthrow the administration of Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi.

“We have to cooperate in elections,” he told a separate news conference. “If the DPJ takes the initiative as the largest opposition party, we will cooperate in any way.”

Ozawa noted that there are growing voices among the opposition for closer cooperation as lawmakers fear losing to LDP candidates in future elections.

The idea of a parliamentary group first surfaced after Ozawa and senior DPJ member Hajime Ishii held a meeting on Monday, sources close to the party said. The sudden interest in the proposal is seen by some as a reflection of insecurity within the opposition.

Each party, in fact, appears to have a set of unique challenges.

The DPJ, which is suffering from a plunging support rate, is busy trying to oust Hatoyama from his post. The SDP seems to be falling to pieces, with three of its members having left the party within the past year. And the Liberal Party, whose main strength lies in Ozawa’s popularity, has no game plan or a successor if and when Ozawa steps aside.

Nevertheless, many DPJ members remain skeptical, saying the plan is “unrealistic” considering individual electoral situations and positions on issues such as national security.

One senior DPJ member, noting that political groupings had been in a state of flux for a decade or so before settling into the current formation, said, “We cannot move now without a justifiable reason to do so.”

Another source close to the DPJ said that conservative DPJ members who take a hawkish stance on national security policies would leave if the party were to join hands with the SDP, a longtime guardian of the war-renouncing Constitution.

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