Opposition leader Yukio Edano has said his party is ready to prove it is a viable alternative to Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga's Liberal Democratic Party in this year's general election, despite remaining far behind in public opinion polls.
"We resolve anew to unite and live up to the people's expectations toward the change of power," Edano, leader of the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan (CDP), said at the party's convention.
Edano criticized Suga's attempts to strike a balance between support for the economy and virus containment as his government continues to struggle to contain the spread of COVID-19 infections.
"The government's inability triggered the current explosion of infections and the collapse of the medical system, and the current critical situation is nothing but a man-made disaster," he said.
Edano said his party would focus more on bringing virus infections to "zero or near zero" before reinvigorating economic activities, as New Zealand and Taiwan did.
The annual gathering comes as the Suga administration has seen its approval ratings crumble due to widespread dissatisfaction with its handling of the country's coronavirus response.
The Cabinet's poor polling results increase the risk factor for Suga as he considers whether to dissolve the powerful Lower House of the Diet and call a snap election before its current four-year term expires in October.
But despite the incumbent administration's struggles, poor polling shows the main opposition force has failed to gain traction among the public.
A Kyodo News opinion poll from Jan. 10 showed 7.8% of respondents backing the CDP, up from 7.2% in a December survey, while the LDP's support rate edged down slightly to 41.2% from 41.5%.
As of the start of the ordinary Diet session on Jan. 18, the CDP-led group had 113 members in the Lower House and 43 in the Upper House, including allied lawmakers, compared with a total of 453 seats held by or aligned with the LDP and its junior coalition partner, Komeito, in both Diet chambers.
At a news conference after the meeting, Edano said his party will seek to cooperate with other opposition parties in the election, though he declined to elaborate further.
The annual convention was held online, with only a limited number of senior party members gathering at a Tokyo hotel.
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