• Kyodo

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Some members of Japan’s Democratic Party for the People will not participate in a merger with a larger opposition party due to disagreements over policy, the former’s leader said Tuesday.

Yuichiro Tamaki said he is among the lawmakers choosing to splinter off rather than join forces with the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, ending months of discussions aimed at building a united front against Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s ruling coalition.

“We were unable to agree on key policies such as lowering the consumption tax,” Tamaki said at a news conference following a meeting of the DPP leadership.

Participants of the nearly four-hour meeting discussed details of merger terms, such as what the post-merger party’s platform would look like and the CDP’s suggestion of holding a vote to decide its name.

Tamaki said after failing to reach a consensus that the DPP leadership had accepted his proposal of splitting the party between those in favor of the merger and those against. The decision is expected to be finalized at a general meeting of lawmakers belonging to the party, possibly next week.

The DPP was formed in May 2018 through a merger of the Democratic Party and the Party of Hope, falling just short of becoming the leading opposition party in Japan’s parliament after an exodus of members. Tamaki served as co-head from the party’s inception and sole leader from September the same year.

At a separate meeting on Tuesday, CDP leader Yukio Edano had voiced optimism over the merger, saying he wanted to “swiftly begin the process” of joining the parties.

The ruling coalition of the Liberal Democratic Party and Komeito currently has overwhelming majorities in both the House of Representatives and the House of Councilors.

But the failure of the DPP and the CDP to reach an agreement underscores their inability to offer voters a clear alternative to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, even as the approval rating for his Cabinet has sunk below 40 percent amid criticism over his administration’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.

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