Alliance negotiations between two Japanese opposition parties break down


Negotiations between the Democratic Party and Kibo no To (Party of Hope) on forming an alliance in the Diet broke down Wednesday amid strong opposition from rank-and-file lawmakers on both sides, with many citing differences in security policy and stances toward revising the Constitution.

The move comes two days after the secretary-generals of the two parties exchanged a consensus document to establish a unified political force to challenge Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government and the ruling Liberal Democratic Party-led coalition when the ordinary Diet session convenes Monday.

The Democratic Party leadership gave up on securing a consensus on the matter within the party Wednesday, having sought to gain approval for the alliance plan from its members in a meeting that started in the morning.

Yuichiro Tamaki, leader of Kibo no To, told a party meeting that the party would end talks on the tie-up later in the day.

Separately, a senior party official told reporters that the “relationship of trust” between the two had “collapsed.”

“We have told the Democratic Party we will no longer continue the negotiations,” the official said.

Kibo no To was formed by Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike ahead of last October’s Lower House election and many DP members had left their party to run as its candidates.

In the process, DP members who did not follow the move established the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, which eventually succeeded in becoming the leading force in the Lower House.

Koike resigned as the party chief to take responsibility for its sluggish performance in the election.

The DP, whose predecessor, the Democratic Party of Japan, was in power between 2009 and 2012, could again split, as a group of senior Lower House members — including former Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda and former Deputy Prime Minister Katsuya Okada — have decided to try to form an alliance with the CDP.

Kibo no To and the DP were at odds over controversial security legislation, which took effect in March 2016, with the latter claiming a key part of the legislation is unconstitutional.

The legislation has loosened the constraints imposed by Article 9 of the Constitution and allowed the Self-Defense Forces to exercise collective self-defense — meaning they could defend the United States and other allies under certain conditions — about which the DP had raised doubts.

Amid speculation that Kibo no To would also divide amid frustration among its members, Shigefumi Matsuzawa, who heads the party’s Upper House members, ruled out such a possibility.

Tamaki said in an interview with Kyodo News earlier in the day, “It is imperative for opposition parties to cooperate in managing Diet affairs,” but also said the two parties did not seek to create a united party from the beginning.