• Kyodo

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As Japan looks ahead to the ruling party's presidential election, which will effectively pick the country's new prime minister, official campaigning kicked off Monday in the race to choose the leader of a soon-to-be-formed major opposition party.

Yukio Edano, 56, who heads the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, and Kenta Izumi, 46, who is the policy chief of the Democratic Party for the People, have filed their candidacies for the Thursday election for the president of the new party.

The country's two largest opposition forces — which, along with some independent politicians, total 149 Diet members — will merge on Sept. 15 in the hope of mounting a united front against the ruling Liberal Democratic Party and its coalition partner Komeito.

But the election to choose the new opposition party chief has been overshadowed by the LDP's presidential race on Sept. 14 to pick the successor of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who is stepping down due to ill health.

"I will look squarely at people's lives and bring a sense of excitement back to politics by becoming a viable (candidate) for people to vote into power," Edano told reporters Monday.

Backed by members of his larger opposition party and the DPP's powerful lawmaker Ichiro Ozawa, Edano is considered to have the upper hand.

Edano has called for stimulating private spending hit by the novel coronavirus pandemic by reducing or removing consumption tax for a limited time, exempting people earning up to ¥10 million annually from paying income tax and distributing ¥10,000 per person per month to low-income individuals.

He proposes retaining the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan as the new party's name.

Izumi, meanwhile, said he seeks to "reach out as much as possible to create a leading opposition that can live up to the expectations of the people."

Izumi suggests removing Japan's 10 percent consumption tax until the pandemic comes to an end and seeks to rid the country of its nuclear power plants.

He also wants the party to take on the name of the now-defunct Democratic Party of Japan, which was in power between 2009 and 2012.

The CDP currently has 89 lawmakers — 56 in the House of Representatives and 33 in the House of Councilors. The 62-member DPP has 40 and 22 lawmakers in the lower and upper chambers, respectively.

DPP leader Yuichiro Tamaki, who will not join the new party due to policy differences with the CDP, aims to create a new group with 14 Diet members.

About two-thirds of the DPP members will join the new party, but even after the Sept. 15 merger, the new party would still fall far short of the more than 450 seats in both chambers held by the LDP, Komeito and their supporters.

The LDP will hold a presidential election on Sept. 14 with the race kicking off Tuesday, and the winner is expected to be named as prime minister at an extraordinary Diet session to be convened on Sept. 16.

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