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Opposition parties, activists ink policy pact for Upper House election

Kyodo

The Democratic Party and three other opposition parties have signed a policy accord with a major activist group opposed to the controversial security laws pushed through by the ruling coalition last year.

In the run-up to the July 10 Upper House election, the heads of the Democratic Party, Japanese Communist Party, Social Democratic Party and Seikatsu no To (People’s Life Party) inked the accord on Tuesday with the Civil Alliance for Peace and Constitutionalism, which has condemned Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s Cabinet for a security stance it says threatens the country’s future.

Despite differences in their core policies, the opposition parties are banding together to challenge the ruling coalition, including by throwing their weight behind single candidates in all 32 single-seat electoral districts at stake in this election.

The opposition party leaders sought the backing of the activist group to better support their candidates. The group’s membership includes academics and members of the activist group Students Emergency Action for Liberal Democracy (SEALDs), which has achieved national prominence for leading protests against the security laws.

The policy accord calls for scrapping of the security legislation and the protection of individual dignity, which the group argues has been degraded by the Abe administration’s pushing through of controversial legislation and suppression of opposition discourse.

“The four parties want to aim to win a majority of the 121 contested seats,” SDP Secretary-General Seiji Mataichi said during the meeting.

Half of the Upper House’s 242 seats go up for election every three years, resulting in staggered six-year terms.

Abe has said the ruling coalition aims to win a majority of the contested seats. This would be 61 of the 121 seats up for grabs, two seats more than Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party and its junior coalition partner Komeito collectively hold at present.

Some in the opposition have claimed Abe really hopes to fill two-thirds of the chamber with members of ruling parties and certain opposition parties amenable to rewriting the pacifist Constitution.

A two-thirds majority in both Diet houses is required to call a national referendum on constitutional amendments.

Democratic Party leader Katsuya Okada vowed not to let the Abe administration reach the two-thirds mark in the July race, saying Article 9, which renounces war, is at stake.

“(The election) is a battle to wipe the slate clean on the security legislation and prevent the corruption of Article 9,” Okada said.