In a maneuver to counter the ruling bloc in the coming extraordinary Diet session this fall, Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan leader Yukio Edano and Democratic Party for the People head Yuichiro Tamaki agreed Tuesday to merge their kaiha parliamentary groups in both houses of the Diet.
“I hope that now that we have joined hands, we will be more effective in resisting the high-handed tactics of the current (Prime Minister Shinzo) Abe government in this autumn’s extraordinary Diet session,” Edano told reporters in Tokyo following the announcement.
“This is the first step in demonstrating to the public that we are an alternative that can stand up to the Liberal Democratic Party,” Tamaki told reporters separately.
Kaiha in both houses of the Diet usually act together, but they do not need to have a unified political platform, and therefore can be formed regardless of party boundaries. Question times in Diet deliberations are allocated according to the number of members in each parliamentary group.
In a shift from his usual policy, Edano had asked the DPP, as well as other independent lawmakers, to join the CDP’s parliamentary group in the Lower House earlier this month.
Edano had until now shunned the idea of opposition parties joining hands with his own party, repeatedly saying that he would stick to his principles and would refuse to “play a numbers game” while compromising the promises he’d made to the electorate.
Yet, following last month’s Upper House election, forces in favor of constitutional revision ended up just four seats shy of 164 seats — the two-thirds mark that would allow the Diet to table a proposal on constitutional change — so the CDP may have felt the need to change tactics.
“We really felt at the past ordinary Diet session that the reason why the Abe administration had free rein to be so high-handed … was because the opposition was disorganized and our power was dispersed,” said Tetsuro Fukuyama, secretary-general of the CDP, at a news briefing later in the day.
“What is most important now in keeping a check on the government’s power is to increase the number in our parliamentary groups … and make the most of the Diet debates,” he added.
But such maneuvers don’t necessarily carry much political weight, says Katsuyuki Yakushiji, a professor at Toyo University and expert on domestic politics.
“It’s common for small groups to bunch together and form bigger parliamentary groups, because it does have an impact on the allocation of slots during question-and-answer sessions in the Diet,” he explained.
“But more than anything, it happens because it garners a lot of attention,” Yakushiji added.
There may have been more of an impact if the two parties “had come together under a unified political goal or decided to work on a common political platform,” but the benefits from this merger are merely technical, he said.
On the part of the ruling bloc, Abe had been wooing members of the DPP, some of which are known to be open to the idea of constitutional revision.
“There are lawmakers within the DPP that are open to the idea of constitutional revision, and my hope is that I can build a consensus among such lawmakers,” Abe had said during a party leader debate in early July.
But the DPP had continuously wavered on which political force to join.
Information from Kyodo added