National / Politics

Abe's LDP to face divided opposition in three-way battle for Lower House

Kyodo

A showdown between opposition parties is intensifying, with the new conservative party Kibo no To (Party of Hope) set to launch an offensive in the upcoming Lower House election against the left-leaning Constitutional Democratic Party led by Yukio Edano, a former senior member of the Democratic Party.

Kibo no To, led by Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike, plans to field 23 candidates in Tokyo’s 25 single-seat districts to actively target senior members of the new liberal party established by Edano, including former Prime Minister Naoto Kan; former Health, Labor and Welfare Minister Akira Nagatsuma, who chaired the DP’s election campaign committee; and Banri Kaieda, a former trade and industry minister.

The governor’s party also plans to field candidates against Edano in Saitama Prefecture, as well as other CDP members such as former Lower House Vice Speaker Hirotaka Akamatsu in Aichi Prefecture and Tomoko Abe in Kanagawa Prefecture.

The CDP, meanwhile, plans to field candidates in 16 districts on Koike’s home turf.

“The (current) political structure is different from the previous election. I will conduct my election campaign as if this were my first election,” Edano said, referring to a three-way contest with candidates from the Liberal Democratic Party and Kibo no To in the Saitama No. 5 constituency where he is set to run.

DP President Seiji Maehara effectively disbanded the party last month and sought to join Kibo no To, in a bid to unite voters against the LDP and its junior coalition partner Komeito.

But Koike, a former senior LDP lawmaker, has said her “reform-minded conservative” party would accept only those DP members who share Kibo no To’s views on national security and amending the Constitution.

Edano established the new pro-Constitution party, providing a home for DP members unlikely to be accepted into Koike’s party.

As a result, the main opposition DP party has with less than a month before the Oct. 22 Lower House election splintered, with some members joining Koike’s party, others opting for Edano’s and some deciding to run as independents.

The creation of a three-way battle between the ruling coalition, Kibo no To and the CDP is a clear setback for opposition parties who had hoped to form a united front against Abe and his government.

Kazuo Shii, head of the Japanese Communist Party, criticized Koike’s party, saying it “is ruining opposition parties’ efforts to form a united front and is serving as a complementary force for the LDP.”

The JCP and Social Democratic Party have welcomed Edano’s move and are expected to discuss the possibility of coordinating their efforts to avoid clashes between candidates from their respective parties.

Koike and Maehara, who plans to run as an independent, together on Friday, visited the headquarters of the Japanese Trade Union Confederation or Rengo, the country’s largest labor organization and long-term DP backer, to seek its endorsement. Edano also met Rengo head Rikio Kozu on the day.

In the 2016 Upper House election, the four opposition parties including the DP and the JCP fielded joint candidates in all 32 single-member constituencies to maximize their chances. In the 2009 Lower House election, the JCP fielded only 150 candidates in single-seat districts, and helped the Democratic Party of Japan take power from the LDP.