(Mainichi: November 10, 2015 – p. 5)
Opposition parties are now having difficulty cooperating on fielding candidates for the House of Councillors election next summer. For the largest opposition Democratic Party of Japan, which has failed to regain its former strength, whether it can field unified candidates with the Japanese Communist Party in single-seat constituencies, is the key to its victory or defeat in the Upper House election. As the JCP is actively fielding candidates, the number of electoral districts in which the DPJ and JCP compete will increase. The DPJ leadership is facing a dilemma because conservative party members could step up their opposition to cooperation with the JCP.
Of the 32 single-seat constituencies across the nation, the DPJ and JCP are now competing in seven single-seat constituencies, including DPJ President Katsuya Okada’s home constituency of Mie Prefecture. The JCP is expected to put up candidates in Iwate Prefecture where a People’s Life Party member currently occupies the seat and in Nagano Prefecture where a DPJ lawmaker holds the seat. Yoshiki Yamashita, secretariat chief of the JCP, said at a press conference on Nov. 9: “Our party has decided in a senior members meeting that coordination on candidates will be possible depending on the constituency if an agreement is reached between opposition parties,” hinting at the possibility of withdrawing its candidates if coordination is conducted with the DPJ.
In order to avoid competition in single-seat constituencies, Okada held talks with JCP Chairman Kazuo Shii in September. However, since Policy Chief Goshi Hosono and other conservative members have strongly reacted to consultations with the JCP leader, Okada has not yet held a second round of talks with Shii. Viewing the DPJ with skepticism, Shii intends to step up his efforts to call on opposition parties to cooperate on the election campaign, saying, “The JCP wants to cooperate in the election campaign for all single-seat constituencies. We will do everything we have to.” However, there is a view in the DPJ that “the JCP apparently is trying to gain the support of independents and young people opposed to the security laws in the proportional representation segment by calling for coordination on candidates under the slogan of opposing the ‘war legislation'” because the JCP continues to field candidates in single-seat constituencies in which the DPJ and JCP compete.
In the 2013 Upper House election, DPJ candidates were defeated in all single-seat constituency races. There is even a possibility that the number of Upper House seats held by the DPJ will decrease to the 30-seat level if it fails to collaborate with other opposition parties in fielding candidates. The DPJ has not yet agreed to cooperate with the Japan Innovation Party, the People’s Life Party, or the Social Democratic Party in the election campaign for the Upper House election. For this reason, there are growing calls in the party for the active promotion of cooperation with the JCP. (Slightly abridged)