Yukio Edano, head of the main opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, looks set to be picked as the leader of a new opposition party to be created through the merger of the CDP and the Democratic Party for the People.
A leadership election is likely to be held during the week starting Sept. 7.
There are moves to have DPP policy chief Kenta Izumi run for the party presidency to prevent Edano from taking the top post without a contest, according to sources familiar with the matter.
The new opposition party is expected to be joined by about 150 lawmakers, including 89 CDP members, 62 DPP members and 20 nonaffiliated lawmakers.
A meeting of a joint election board is set to be held on Tuesday to decide the schedule of the presidency election. Those who want to file their candidacies need the support of at least 20 fellow lawmakers.
Edano is expected to declare his candidacy for party president as early as Thursday.
On Friday last week, the largest liberal group of the CDP, led by Hirotaka Akamatsu, vice speaker of the House of Representatives, indicated its support for Edano, submitting the signatures of 26 members.
“I felt encouraged,” Edano said.
Edano has started making efforts to win support from non-CDP lawmakers, such as holding talks with veteran Lower House member Ichiro Ozawa of the DPP.
According to a senior CDP member, most of the nonaffiliated lawmakers have agreed to support Edano.
“It’s not that we want to hold the leadership election,” a source close to Edano said. “But we need a landslide victory if we’re doing it.”
Meanwhile, the DPP side is supporting Izumi, as it believes the new party had better exude its presence through the leadership election, at a time when the successor to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who announced his plan to resign due to poor health, may dissolve the Lower House soon to call a snap general election.
In addition, the DPP is apparently hoping to secure its influence in the new party by showing that Izumi has a certain number of supporters.
Many nonaffiliated lawmakers joining the new party are also calling for the leadership election. Former Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada, who leads a group of nonaffiliated lawmakers, told reporters, “The leadership election should be held as a milestone of the new party’s beginning.”