Japan’s largest opposition party appears to be in danger of falling apart, as some of its core members prepared Thursday to officially demand that their leader dissolve the party and create a new force with Ishin no To (Japan Innovation Party).
Democratic Party of Japan policy chief Goshi Hosono and former President Seiji Maehara held talks with former Ishin President Kenji Eda on Wednesday night and agreed to work for the dissolution of the two parties and the formation of a new opposition force powerful enough to challenge Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party in next summer’s Upper House election.
Maehara is set to put the demand to DPJ President Katsuya Okada “sometime soon,” according to Kyodo News.
Eda had met with Okada on Wednesday night and suggested the two parties dissolve and form a fresh force, but Okada rejected the idea, the news agency reported, quoting an anonymous source close to Eda.
Since the DPJ lost power to the LDP in the December 2012 general election, the party has struggled to gain voter support and muster much influence in a Diet mostly dominated by the ruling LDP-Komeito coalition.
The move, however, could trigger an internal feud between conservative DPJ members who support Hosono and Maehara, and those who are close to Okada and reluctant to dissolve the party.
During a news conference Thursday, Okada said he had not confirmed the reported agreement, and attempted to reassure party supporters.
“There is no need to worry. I am the leader (of the DPJ),” Okada said.
Okada declined to make further comment, but said that to break the stagnant situation “(the party’s) essence must be changed.”
“Changing the signs won’t work,” he said in an apparent reference that a new party could end up being the same people calling themselves by a new party name.
Hosono and Maehara have been eager to form a new opposition force with Ishin for a long time and have criticized Okada after he seemed to be looking at ways to cooperate with the Japanese Communist Party in the next Upper House election.
Meanwhile, the head of Ishin, Yorihisa Matsuno, who has repeatedly voiced hope of creating a new opposition force with the DPJ by the end of this year, welcomed the move and urged the DPJ leadership to accept the demand.
“It would only take a nod from a member of (the DPJ’s) leadership such as Okada or (Secretary-General Yukio) Edano” to realize the realignment of the opposition forces, Matsuno said at a news conference.
According to NHK polls, the DPJ’s support rate has faltered to around 7 to 10 percent in the past year, while that of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s LDP stands at about 35 to 40 percent.
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