• Kyodo, Jiji

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The leader of Japan’s main opposition party expressed eagerness Friday to realize a merger with a smaller party to create a “powerful” force capable of toppling the administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, saying progress has been made.

Yukio Edano, who leads the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, is striving to create a new party with the Democratic Party for the People amid growing speculation that a Lower House election may come as early as this fall.

“It is a difficult judgment to make but we have been making certain progress,” Edano said at a meeting of CDP lawmakers, who later approved the merger plan.

“There are two major challenges — living up to the expectations and trust of people here who have supported (the party) for nearly three years since its establishment and creating a powerful opposition party that can replace the administration,” Edano said.

The two opposition parties have been eyeing a merger for some time and have formed a joint parliamentary group in the Diet to counter the ruling coalition of the Liberal Democratic Party and Komeito.

Yukio Edano, head of the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, Friday addresses a meeting of the party's lawmakers in the Diet building. | KYODO
Yukio Edano, head of the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, addresses a meeting of the party’s lawmakers in the Diet building on Friday. | KYODO

The merger plan comes as some lawmakers speculate that Abe, capitalizing on a fractured opposition, will dissolve the House of Representatives for an election before the terms of current members expire in October 2021.

Initial talks between the CDP and the DPP broke down in January after they failed to bridge their differences over the merger process and a new party name.

The CDP, in particular, wanted to be the surviving party, an idea rejected by its counterpart.

But a turning point came on Wednesday when the CDP made a fresh set of proposals to the DPP. According to the proposals, both parties will disband and create a new party with its leader picked in an election. The party will retain the CDP’s name but will be called the Democratic Party for short.

DPP leader Yuichiro Tamaki has sounded positive about the newly proposed merger process.

Still, it remains to be seen whether Tamaki will accept the new name after he said it should be decided in a “democratic way.” The leader has called for a merger on an equal footing and a party name other than the CDP.

“We can make a fresh start if the name of the new party is decided through democratic procedures,” Tamaki told a news conference Thursday. “I would like to propose that we choose a new name.”

Tamaki said that the two parties need to forge an agreement to seek a temporary cut in the consumption tax rate and coordinate their policies on constitutional amendments.

At a news conference on Thursday, Edano called on the DPP to make the decision as soon as possible.

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