An endeavor to merge the two largest opposition parties in Japan ground to a halt Tuesday, after the Democratic Party for the People failed to reach internal consensus ahead of a deadline on consolidation the previous day.
“We think it’s regrettable, although we believe that the DPP … did the best job it could. But at this point, we think we didn’t reach an agreement between our very limit and their very limit,” said Tetsuro Fukuyama, secretary-general of the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, on Tuesday afternoon after a meeting with DPP Secretary-General Hirofumi Hirano. He added that the two parties will continue to cooperate in the Diet.
The parties have been working for weeks on the proposed consolidation in a bid to establish a “formidable alternative” to the ruling bloc — the Liberal Democratic Party led by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe along with coalition partner Komeito — by the beginning of the Diet session, which was Monday. Fukuyama’s comment signals that the merger proposal will be shelved, at least for now.
On Monday evening, a group of DPP lawmakers urged the party’s leadership to immediately follow through with the coalition idea, but that proposal was rejected.
Keisuke Tsumura, the DPP’s deputy leader and a six-term Lower House member, said a proposal for immediate action on a merger was shot down in a 28-21 vote, with six abstentions.
He had submitted the resolution in a general meeting with fellow party lawmakers.
The proposal sought to clarify the intention to merge and continue deliberations with the CDP.
In the proposal, 21 DPP lawmakers expressed support for the confirmed points of agreement — from a Dec. 27 meeting between the CDP’s Fukuyama and DPP’s Hirano — that they said signaled the necessity of the two parties’ merger.
While the CDP, a center-left party, is united on the merger idea, the DPP, a center-right party, was divided even before Monday’s developments.
CDP leader Yukio Edano suggested over the weekend that the merger talks would be scrapped if the DPP didn’t reach a consensus by Monday.
DPP leader Yuichiro Tamaki has been cautious about pushing an agreement, saying an arbitrary deadline shouldn’t be set. He is apparently apprehensive about what could be seen as a takeover attempt by the CDP, under the belief that DPP funds would be plundered.
To downplay concerns of an internal breakup within the DPP, party lawmakers in the proposal expressed support for Tamaki and his determination to continue negotiations with the CDP regarding a potential new party name, manifesto, basic policy and party personnel.
In the Diet, the two parties’ parliamentary groups have been integrated since September. Distinct from political parties, and with no obligation for members to share a policy platform, such groups are the main units of the legislature. The amount of time allotted for questions in all parliamentary committee deliberation sessions is determined based on their size.