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Campaigning begins for leadership of Japan’s second-largest opposition party

Kyodo

Campaigning began Wednesday for the leadership contest of the second-largest opposition party, with contenders tasked with boosting the party’s support base and cooperating with other members of the opposition camp.

The Sept. 4 election to pick the head of the Democratic Party for the People is expected to be a two-horse race between two Lower House members, Yuichiro Tamaki and Keisuke Tsumura, who both registered their candidacies on Wednesday.

Tamaki, a four-term member of the House of Representatives, currently co-heads the party. He will be challenged by Keisuke Tsumura, a six-term member of the Lower House. The new leader will serve until September 2021.

The party was established in May through a merger between two splinter groups of the now-defunct Democratic Party of Japan, which was in power between 2009 and 2012.

But it has not fared well in garnering support from voters and remains the second-largest opposition force in the Diet after the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan.

The approval rating for the party stood at a mere 0.9 percent, compared with a rating of 41.6 percent for the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, according to the latest survey, which was conducted last month.

The two contenders differ on how to cooperate with other opposition forces to challenge the LDP, led by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, in the run-up to the House of Councilors election next year.

Tamaki, who represents a constituency in Kagawa Prefecture, has called for cooperating with other opposition parties except for the Japanese Communist Party.

“This is the election to choose which one is fit to challenge the Abe administration,” Tamaki told reporters.

Meanwhile, Tsumura, elected through proportional representation for the Chugoku region, has not ruled out the possibility of joining hands with the JCP.

He stressed the need for a leadership revamp, saying, “To break the status quo, it is necessary to change players.”