The small opposition Social Democratic Party, once a major political force, decided Saturday to allow its Diet and local assembly members to leave the party to join the main opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan.
The decision could push the SDP, which succeeded a socialist party formed in 1945, closer to the brink of collapse with three of its four Diet members expected to depart.
Its representatives voted at an extraordinary party convention held in Tokyo to allow members wishing to join the CDP to leave the party.
The SDP will inform the CDP of the decision at a leaders meeting likely to take place early next year. The two parties will then hold talks to ensure a smooth transfer of SDP members.
At a news conference after the convention, SDP leader Mizuho Fukushima said it is regrettable that some members will leave the party, but added that the SDP will work hard after putting an end to the debate on whether to join with the CDP.
Of the SDP’s four lawmakers, only Fukushima has said she intends to remain with the party.
Secretary-General Tadatomo Yoshida, deputy party chief Hajime Yoshikawa and House of Representatives lawmaker Kantoku Teruya are considering leaving the SDP and plan to make final decisions after talks with their local support groups.
Even if the SDP is left with only one lawmaker, it will maintain its status as a political party until 2022 under the public offices election law because it captured 2% or more of the votes in the 2019 House of Councilors election. A political party needs five or more Diet members, or must have won more than 2% of the votes in the most recent Upper or Lower House election.
Still, many believe that the SDP will have difficulty regaining its strength.
Of 167 party members who took part in the convention, 84 supported the proposal to allow members to leave against 75 dissenters.
In December last year, CDP leader Yukio Edano proposed an integration of the CDP and the SDP.
SDP supporters of the proposal, including Yoshida, aimed to disband the SDP for a full merger with the CDP, but dropped the plan in the face of opposition from Fukushima and others.
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