National / Politics

DPJ, Ishin no To discuss common ground, possible joint campaign for Upper House election

by Mizuho Aoki and Reiji Yoshida

Staff Writers

The nation’s two largest opposition parties agreed Friday to start discussing common ground with a view to fighting the Upper House election next summer with a united front.

Observers say the parties’ aim to coordinate at least some of their policies could lead to a merger.

Katsuya Okada, president of the Democratic Party of Japan, the largest opposition force, and Ishin no To (Japan Innovation Party) leader Yorihisa Matsuno met at the Diet building for the talks and sounded upbeat in comments to reporters.

They agreed to launch working-level talks to agree common ground in areas such as diplomacy and the economy, which Okada said could serve as the basis for joint election campaign promises in the Upper House election.

A draft of proposed joint policies will be ready by the end of this month, Okada added.

The main goal for now, he said, was to avoid placing candidates in competition with each other in single-seat constituencies.

For his part, Matsuno expressed a lofty vision of where cooperation could lead.

“I’d like to have a new reformist party created” through the merger of opposition parties including the DPJ and Ishin, Matsuno told reporters later the day.

Meanwhile on Friday, Okada also met Kazuo Shii, the chairman of the Japanese Communist Party, the nation’s No. 3 opposition party.

Shii proposed that opposition parties join forces to try to form a coalition government focusing on abolishing the contentious security legislation that the ruling bloc enacted last week.

Okada told reporters he believed the chance of forming a coalition government with the JCP was slim — for now.

“This may sound rude to say, but the political hurdle is very high to form a joint government with the JCP,” Okada told reporters.

The JCP seeks the eventual abolition of the Japan-U.S. military alliance, a policy which makes it difficult for other parties to link arms with the JCP during election campaigns.

As the longest Diet session in postwar history effectively ended on Friday, opposition parties shifted into pre-election mode as they geared up to challenge the dominant ruling alliance of the Liberal Democratic Party and Komeito.

In the upcoming Upper House election, 121 seats, or half the 242 upper chamber seats, will be up for grabs. Among the 242 seats, the ruling camp currently holds 133 seats.