Your Party, an opposition group once seen as a possible third force in Japanese politics, decided Wednesday to disband, amid dismal public support and a desperate split between members over whether or not to cooperate with the ruling camp in trying to survive the Dec. 14 Lower House election.
At a general meeting, the 20-member party voted to disband, with 13 voting for the measure and six opposed. The latter group included party founder and Lower House member Yoshimi Watanabe.
Watanabe has argued that Your Party should cooperate with the ruling camp to realize the party’s key policy proposals, most notably cutting the size of government to save taxpayers’ money.
The 13 in favor of disbanding, who included party president Keiichiro Asao, argued that the party should keep its distance from the ruling camp and should instead combine forces with other opposition groups to survive the upcoming poll.
They found they could not bridge the divide and this led to Wednesday’s decision, Asao told reporters after the meeting.
Your Party, founded in 2009 by Watanabe, was once considered a hopeful third force — an alternative for voters fed up with the established parties.
But internal strife and a financial scandal involving Watanabe alienated many supporters. The party will formally disband Nov. 28.
“We couldn’t keep unity, not because of differences in policy matters but because of disagreement over whether we should cooperate with the ruling camp,” Asao said.
The latest NHK poll, conducted Nov. 7-9, found that the party had a support rating of 0 percent.
Some party members were exploring joining the Democratic Party of Japan, the largest opposition force, to improve their chances of being re-elected.
“We have completely lost the trust of the public,” Kota Matsuda, a Your Party member in the Upper House, wrote on a website Monday. Matsuda is also known as the founder and former president and CEO of Tully’s Coffee Japan.
The reverberations of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s decision to dissolve the Lower House and call a snap election continued to reverberate elsewhere in the political arena on Wednesday.
Former Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara, 82, co-leader of Jisedai no To (Party for Future Generations), decided to run in the upcoming poll, a source close to him told The Japan Times on Wednesday.
Ishihara, a Lower House member elected from Tokyo, apparently reversed his earlier plan to retire from politics due to his age and declining physical strength. Ishihara suffered a minor stroke in March of 2013.
His decision came after strong pleas from Jisedai’s members, who begged him to run in the upcoming race, media reports said.
Most of the 19 Lower House members of the party are junior lawmakers with weak election-backing organizations. Given the party’s near-zero support ratings in media polls, members are apparently worried about their party’s survival prospects in a vote without Ishihara, who retains considerable popularity among conservative voters.
The latest NHK poll indicated a support rate of just 0.2 percent for Jisedai no To.
Most Lower House members rushed back to their electoral districts on Wednesday to hurriedly lay the groundwork for the upcoming poll. Official election campaigning will begin on Dec. 2.
In the Upper House, opposition parties boycotted deliberations at all the sessions in the chamber to protest Abe’s decision to dissolve the Lower House.
A committee session to deliberate two key government-sponsored bills designed to help revitalize regional economies was attended only by lawmakers from the ruling Liberal Democratic Party and Komeito, as well as Jisedai no To.
The ruling parties are aiming to enact the two bills on Friday before the Lower House is dissolved