• Jiji, staff report

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All four hopefuls in the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan’s upcoming leadership poll have stressed the need to unify opposition candidates in prefectural constituencies where only one seat each will be up for grabs in next summer’s Upper House election — a stance that comes despite the strategy’s failure to translate into votes in the October Lower House poll.

All four leadership candidates on Sunday stuck to the view on the CDP’s continued election cooperation with the Japanese Communist Party (JCP) in the triennial poll for parliament’s upper chamber.

The four delivered speeches and held a debate in Sapporo on Sunday, kicking off local campaigning activities for the Nov. 30 CDP leadership election poll.

With the election expected to be a close contest, the four candidates are aiming to attract as many votes as possible from local CDP assembly members and rank-and-file party members and supporters.

The four candidates, all members of the House of Representatives, the powerful lower chamber of the Diet, are Seiji Osaka, former special adviser to the prime minister, Junya Ogawa, former parliamentary vice minister for internal affairs and communications, CDP policy chief Kenta Izumi and Chinami Nishimura, former state minister of health, labor and welfare.

The election comes after the resignation earlier this month of Yukio Edano, whose leadership came under fire after the CDP’s pre-election pact with the JCP to support unified district candidates created tension among CDP supporters and failed to produce results at the polls.

That agreement had been designed to prevent a split opposition vote in district elections but ended up turning off some voters. Expanding the party’s base to include more supporters, and deciding whether to attempt to attract more conservative voters who dislike the JCP, have been seen by some observers as key to any new leader’s success.

The party is coming off a disappointing showing in the Oct. 31 Lower House election, having dropped from 110 seats to 96.

Despite this, the four candidates vying to replace Edano all stressed the importance of opposition cooperation in the Upper House election.

“It’s very important for opposition parties to unify candidates in single-seat prefectural constituencies to enable one-on-one battles with candidates from the ruling coalition,” Osaka said during Sunday’s debate.

Still, he indicated that specific local circumstances should be taken into consideration when work on candidate unification is carried out,saying that “the situation differs substantially from prefecture to prefecture.”

Ogawa, meanwhile, said that opposition parties “should make efforts to put up unified candidates” as the ruling Liberal Democratic Party and its coalition partner, Komeito, are certain to unify theirs.

Izumi also voiced support for the move, saying he will do everything he can to help opposition parties unify candidates, while Nishimura said that the CDP will “have no chance to win unless we set the stage for one-on-one battles in single-seat constituencies.

On constitutional amendments, all four candidates said that discussions should be held at both Diet chambers’ commissions on the Constitution.

Izumi said, “We need to discuss restrictions on television commercials” related to a possible national referendum on constitutional revisions, given that a national referendum law amendment for improving voter convenience in such a referendum has been enacted.

Meanwhile, Izumi, apparently keeping in mind the LDP’s constitutional reform plans, said that some issues can be handled under ordinary laws so it is wrong to try to deal with them through revisions of the Constitution.

At the joint news conference, Osaka and Izumi expressed caution over the literature survey now being conducted in the town of Suttsu and the village of Kamoenai, both in Hokkaido, to check whether they are suited to host a permanent underground storage site for high-level radioactive waste from nuclear power plants across Japan.

“From an academic standpoint, I don’t think there is any place in the country where underground storage of high-level radioactive waste is possible,” said Osaka, whose Lower House constituency is in Hokkaido.

Izumi said, “Considering impacts on local tourism and farm products, a Hokkaido government ordinance stating that it is difficult for the prefecture to accept radioactive waste should be observed at this moment.”

“This is an extremely difficult issue,” Ogawa said.

Nishimura stated, “There is no other way but to set up a forum where we hold discussions and search for a solution by taking the issue as a challenge for all of us.”

The first-stage literature survey, which is expected to take about two years to complete, started in November 2020 in Suttsu and Kamoenai. The survey is being conducted by the Nuclear Waste Management Organization of Japan, or NUMO, which is under the supervision of the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry.

The four candidates will hold local campaign events for the CDP leadership election in Fukuoka on Tuesday and in Yokohama on Thursday.

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