All eyes are focused on what decision Democratic Party (DP) leader Seiji Maehara will make on the party’s election cooperation with the Japanese Communist Party (JCP). The new DP chief opposed the campaign tie-up during the party’s leadership race. But Diet Affairs Committee Chairman Yorihisa Matsuno and Election Campaign Committee Chairman Akira Nagatsuma, who are believed to be in favor of the electoral ties, are also DP party executives. Maehara will be forced to make a tough decision as revelation of disarray among the leadership could affect his grip on power with three Lower House by-elections coming up in October.
On the morning of Sept. 8, Maehara made courtesy visits to other political parties in the Diet building with Secretary General Atsushi Oshima, Matsuno, and Nagatsuma. When they visited the JCP’s antechamber, leader Kazuo Shii called on Maehara to continue the tie-up, saying, “We share the large goal of toppling the Abe government. We can definitely move forward toward that goal if we talk.” Maehara just said “Thank you.” But Matsuno said, “I will drop by occasionally,” demonstrating his interest in working as an intermediary between the DP and JCP.
Maehara is cautious about the campaign tie-up, having once likened the JCP to a “termite” that eats away at the foundation of his party.
Meanwhile, Matsuno, who supported Maehara with his whole faction, is considered to be forward-looking about the electoral ties with the JCP and to be close to Liberal Party (LP) co-leader Ichiro Ozawa, who aims for a united opposition front including the JCP.
Matsuno also has close ties with JCP Diet Affairs Chief Keiji Kokuta. Matsuno made a campaign speech with Kokuta in Kyoto City in December 2016 and even attended a party [to mark the 20th anniversary of Kokuta’s tenure as JCP diet affairs chief held in the ancient city] in July this year.
Maehara told the executive meeting on Sept. 5 to examine election cooperation with the JCP, including review of the tie-up. But it is uncertain how the issue will be settled. When Renho was at the helm of the DP, acting leader Jun Azumi and others were responsible for the campaign tie-up with the JCP. Some say, though, that “for the time being Matsuno will work with Kokuta behind the scenes to make adjustments for electoral ties.”