(Sankei: January 26, 2016 – p. 5)
According to the opinion poll jointly conducted by Sankei Shimbun and Fuji News Network (FNN) on Jan. 23–24, the percentage of pollees who think it would be desirable for “Lower House elections to be held within this year” rose to 59.8%, including those who indicated that the Lower House elections should be held on the same day as this summer’s Upper House elections. Looking at the findings by political party supported, 73.6% of supporters of Initiatives from Osaka (Osaka Ishin no Kai) indicated that they hoped a Lower House election would be held this year. This seems to suggest that hopes are high that former party leader Toru Hashimoto, who retired from politics, will make an early “comeback” to government.
Other political parties whose supporters desired Lower House elections to be held within the year include the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) at 60.7%, the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) at 59.2%, and the Japanese Communist Party (JCP) at 52.9%. These figures show that the Initiatives from Osaka supporters are far ahead of the pack in their desire for Lower House elections this year. Mr. Hashimoto attended the first meeting of the party’s strategic headquarters on Jan. 24. Although he has removed himself from center stage, he plans to be deeply involved in creating an original proposal by Initiatives from Osaka for the constitutional amendments going forward.
Turning to the question of having the opposition parties back unified candidates for single-seat districts in the Upper House elections, 49.0% were in favor, exceeding the 37.2% who were not. Looking at the results by political party supported, supporters of the JCP led those in favor of the move at 83.0%, followed by the DPJ at 63.1%, and the Japan Innovation Party (JIP) at 56.3%. These figures show varying levels of enthusiasm for this move, but even among the LDP, 36.9% were in favor of the opposition parties putting up unified candidates. DPJ Secretary-General Yukio Edano told the press on Jan. 25, “Even those who support the LDP are behind the unified candidates. Many people want to put the brakes on the runaway Shinzo Abe administration and are hoping that the opposition parties can compete with the LDP head-on.” JCP Secretariat Head Yoshiki Yamashita said, “This shows people’s expectations for the opposition parties. We will continue to work diligently and in good faith to be able to meet their expectations.”
The actual support rates for the individual parties, however, are sluggish. Compared with the previous poll taken in December 2015, support for the DPJ was down by 1.0 point to 8.4%, while JCP support remained unchanged at 5.3%. The total support rate for all opposition parties was 22.5%, falling well below the combined total for the LDP and Komeito of 41.3%. The Diet debates in January showed that the opposition parties lack punch, and this seems to be reflected in the sluggishness in support rates as well.
It is in this context that former Foreign Minister Seiji Maehara of the DPJ and Ichiro Ozawa of the People’s Life Party & Taro Yamamoto and Friends met on the evening of Jan. 24 and agreed that it is indispensable that the opposition parties join forces in the Upper House elections.
According to sources, it was Hosei University professor Jiro Yamaguchi who called for the meeting. Mr. Yamaguchi is a key member of the Civil Alliance and is calling for partnership among the opposition parties, including the JCP. Apparently, the meeting did not result in Maehara and Ozawa agreeing to join hands with the JCP.