Rengo (Japan Trade Union Confederation) is becoming increasingly worried about the House of Councillors election. While it is fielding a record 12 candidates from the group, the opposition parties are unable to cooperate on a joint proportional representation ticket in the election and support for the Democratic Party (DP) remains sluggish. Although Rengo Chairman Rikio Kozu is calling on the DP and citizens’ groups to cooperate on a joint proportional representation ticket, it appears that opposition candidates are bound to clash against each other.
Rengo wants to prevent the mutual defeat of its candidates running under the DP and other opposition candidates by competing against each other. Kozu has advised DP leader Katsuya Okada to work for a unified proportional representation ticket, but no progress has been made in discussions by the opposition parties, so it is now impossible to implement the plan.
Kozu met with Keio University Professor Emeritus Setsu Kobayashi, leader of the political group “Kokumin Ikari no Koe” [Angry Voice of the Citizens], at a hotel in Tokyo on June 6. He asked Kobayashi not to go separate ways with the DP in the election, but Kobayashi did not change his independent line. A senior Rengo official stated that “even if election cooperation isn’t possible, we at least want to avoid criticizing each other in the campaign.”
Rengo is also alarmed by the unchanged gap in the support rating for the Liberal Democratic Party and the DP as the Upper House election approaches. It is also concerned by the unbridled trend of dwindling number of labor union members.
The Japanese Federation of Chemical Workers’ Unions (with a membership of 47,000) bolted Rengo in late May. This was the first case of an industrial labor federation leaving Rengo since its founding in 1989.
Under the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) administration, 10 of the 11 Rengo candidates won in the 2010 Upper House election. However, in the subsequent Upper House election of 2013, after the DPJ lost power, three out of Rengo’s nine candidates lost. There is now an opinion in Rengo that “the DP can’t be relied on; candidates will have to campaign on their own,” according to an official of the Federation of Electric Power Related Industry Worker’s Unions of Japan. (Slightly abridged)