The formation of a new opposition party this year through the merger of the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan (CDP) and the Democratic Party for the People (DPP) has put an end to a situation featuring “many weak opposition parties.”
The fractured opposition bloc, allowing a coalition of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and Komeito to run the government for nearly eight years, started with the 2012 breakup of the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ).
Taking on the CDP’s name, the new opposition party has 150 members of the Diet. While it is still unable to show a clear policy banner, however, some political analysts say the establishment of the biggest opposition party is merely a “reunion of old DPJ members.”
“We will offer an option” for a change of government at the next general election, Yukio Edano, leader of the new CDP, stressed at a convention on Sept. 15 to mark the foundation of the party.
For the next election for the 465-seat House of Representatives, the CDP has already picked 186 candidates while planning to coordinate the selection of many others with other opposition parties.
But public support ratings for the CDP remain low, after Yuichiro Tamaki, head of the DPP, and some other politicians opted not to join the new party, according to various opinion polls.
In addition, the name and leaders of the CDP are “hardly fresh,” a veteran LDP lawmaker said. Participation in the new party by former DPJ leaders, such as Ichiro Ozawa, Katsuya Okada and Yoshihiko Noda, strengthens the impression that the CDP is a reunion of old DPJ lawmakers.
In October 2017, Edano established the CDP just before the Lower House election and led it to become the No. 1 opposition party in the voting. The core supporters of the merged party are liberals who helped the old CDP make great strides in the 2017 election.
During merger negotiations with the DPP, Edano insisted on maintaining the party name and the policy of ending nuclear power generation, in an apparent attempt to retain supporters.
But DPP lawmakers from private-sector labor unions in support of nuclear power refused to join the new CDP.
With the CDP needing new supporters to bolster its strength, a middle-ranking member who contributed to the merger said Edano “should leave behind his successful experience of founding the old CDP.”
To win votes on a broader basis while reinforcing the original support, Edano proposed that Japan should become a “natural energy-oriented country.”
But the proposal drew skepticism from some CDP members, who called for policy pledges more attractive to the public such as innovative measures to fight the new coronavirus and a consumption tax cut, citing Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga’s stance of addressing issues familiar to people at large, such as reduced mobile phone bills and health insurance coverage for fertility treatment.
Edano was caught off guard by the sudden resignation of Suga’s predecessor, Shinzo Abe, as he had established the CDP under the effective banner of toppling the Abe administration, which was in power for seven years and eight months.
“If things go wrong at the next Lower House election, we may lose some seats,” a veteran CDP lawmaker said.
Although the opposition camp needs to form a unified front to win the election, the CDP sees few chances for cooperation with Reiwa Shinsengumi, a small populist party, and Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Innovation Party).
When Suga was elected prime minister in an extraordinary parliamentary session convened in mid-September to choose Abe’s successor, the Japanese Communist Party took the unusual step of voting for Edano, aiming to show, as JCP Chairman Kazuo Shii put it, “our intent to form a coalition government of opposition parties.”
But Rikio Kozu, president of the Japanese Trade Union Confederation, or Rengo, which supports the CDP, said, “It’s impossible to have the JCP in government.”
Given the complicated tangle of interests, Edano has a difficult balancing act ahead of him.
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