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Rarely a day goes by without a newspaper article focusing on whether the Nov. 9 general election will usher in an era of two dominant political parties.

The possibility of a two-party system moved a step closer to reality with the recent absorption of the Liberal Party by the Democratic Party of Japan, making the DPJ a greater threat to the ruling Liberal Democratic Party.

Yet Takako Doi, president of the Social Democratic Party, believes that the people need a third choice.

This need for an alternative will be the new raison d’etre for the SDP, which hopes to walk away from the election with at least 21 out of the 480 Lower House seats up for grabs.

“TV, newspapers and radio stations now behave as if there are only two parties — the LDP and the DPJ,” the 74-year-old leader told The Japan Times in a recent interview.

Many observers claim that a two-party system would be ideal for Japan, where no single party has ever been powerful enough to unseat the LDP, which has held a Lower House majority since its 1955 debut, except for a brief period in the 1990s.

Expectations are now mounting that the DPJ may be able to change this scenario.

But Doi argued that the various opinions and needs of the public would not be represented by just two parties.

The SDP chief, who is also a noted scholar on the Constitution, maintained that a political arena dominated by just two powerful political forces would effectively drown out the voices of the socially weak.

In an apparent effort to distinguish itself from the two megaparties, the SDP has returned to its traditional pillars — promoting social security measures and protecting the pacifist Constitution.

The SDP recently published a 72-page booklet on its policy ideas. Much of the text is devoted to proposals aimed at increasing welfare benefits and expanding worker rights — although in many cases the party has not outlined how such measures might be financed.

Doi said the LDP-led ruling bloc must be ousted, refusing to rule out the possibility of forming a coalition government with the DPJ if the No. 1 opposition party comes close to winning a majority of the House of Representatives.

She added, however, that the SDP still needs to campaign on its own platform in order to maintain its identity and work to keep the major parties in check.

Some of her party’s candidates will inevitably be forced to compete with those of the DPJ in some voter constituencies, she said.

Even if the LDP-led bloc could be ousted from power via a DPJ-SDP coalition, the two parties would probably clash over policy matters, especially on national security, given the SDP’s pacifist ideology.

But Doi declined to discuss this issue, stating that it need only be considered after the election.

Given the public’s focus on the LDP-DPJ faceoff, the SDP is expected to face an uphill battle in the election.

It does not help that the SDP has been tainted by a scandal. Kiyomi Tsujimoto, who was SDP policy chief when it was alleged that she misappropriated her state-paid secretaries’ salaries, had to quit the Diet. She has since been charged, as has a key Doi aide also allegedly involved in the case.

The SDP, which for decades was the largest opposition party, had only 18 Lower House members when the lower chamber was dissolved Oct. 10.

It hopes to come away with at least 21 seats in the election, Doi said. A party needs that many to submit a bill.

“This (21-seat rule) is really a pressing matter,” Doi said. “We haven’t spent a day without being frustrated by this.”

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