(Yomiuri: March 4, 2016 – p. 4)
The People’s Life Party (PLP) is in a fix. Although the party is hoping to join the merger between the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) and the Japan Innovation Party (JIP), out of concern that the party may be rendered irrelevant, there is still strong resentment in the DPJ against PLP co-leader Ichiro Ozawa for stirring up unrest in the DPJ when it was in power, so the PLP’s fate is in limbo.
Although House of Councillors Vice President Azuma Koshiishi, a close ally of Ozawa, is moving to mediate for the unification of opposition forces, his job will not be easy.
Ozawa met with DPJ leader Katsuya Okada and Koshiishi in Tokyo on the evening of Mar. 2. The meeting was set up by Koshiishi in line with Okada’s desire to work for a united front of opposition parties. Ozawa also recognizes the need for the opposition parties to form a grand coalition. He stated enthusiastically at a meeting with DPJ and JIP Diet members close to him on Feb. 25: “If the opposition parties come together, it will be fully possible to face off against Prime Minister Abe.”
While there are many JIP lawmakers who are close to Ozawa, including party leader Yorihisa Matsuno and election strategy chief Kenko Matsuki, the great majority of DPJ members want the absorption of the PLP “without Ozawa.” Secretary General Yukio Edano and core members of the party leadership are particularly averse to Ozawa. DPJ members are also skeptical about the behavior of PLP co-leader Taro Yamamoto. It is widely believed that it would be difficult for all five PLP Diet members to join the DPJ as a group.
Two PLP House of Councillors members, Ryo Shuhama (Iwate) and Ryoko Tani (proportional representation ticket) are up for reelection [this summer]. Neither of them revealed what they plan to do. What to do with them will be an urgent issue. A PLP source confided that “it is possible that the party may become divided between Diet members who want to join the DPJ and those who will stay behind with Mr. Ozawa.”