The Democratic Party (DP), which did not field any candidates in the recent House of Representatives election, is unable to change its situation of being overshadowed by the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan (CDPJ) and the Party of Hope.
Regarding the CDPJ and the Party of Hope as its “fraternal parties,” DP Secretary General Teruhiko Mashiko will hold separate meetings with his CDPJ counterpart Tetsuro Fukuyama and Party of Hope counterpart Motoshisa Furukawa on Nov. 24 to discuss how their parties can cooperate from now on. However, a tug-of-war over local chapters has already begun between the DP and the CDPJ, rendering the party’s prospects for the simultaneous local elections in 2019 uncertain.
While the DP has 46 House of Councillors members and is the leading opposition party in the Upper House, it has only 14 members of the “Independents Club” in the Lower House who ran as independents in the recent election. The party leadership has begun to sort out its secretariat and some party employees have moved over to the CDPJ or the Party of Hope.
Despite the DP’s support rating being less than 1% in Mainichi Shimbun’s opinion poll for November, it held a national meeting of secretaries general on Nov. 18 and confirmed that even “general chapters” without a leader will continue to operate. It has not retracted its slogan of working for a change of administration.
One reason for the DP’s obscurity is its deference to the CDPJ and the Party of Hope. During the Upper House representative interpellations on Nov. 21, its leader Kohei Otsuka took a “neutral” stance between the CDPJ and the Party of Hope on the question of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s proposal to add a provision on the Self-Defense Forces (SDF) in the Constitution, stating: “Our position is that the SDF is constitutional, whether or not there is a constitutional provision.”
On the other hand, CDPJ leader Yukio Edano pressed DP local assembly members on Nov. 20 to make a decision on whether they will join the CDPJ before the end of this year. This party has already set up prefectural chapters in Aichi and Miyagi and is preparing to do the same n Hokkaido, Tokyo, Kanagawa, Osaka, and other prefectures.
The DP’s documents show that there are Diet members from the DP, the CDPJ, and the Party of Hope in 11 prefectures, while there are also 8 prefectures where there are no Diet members from all three parties. Many are concerned that, “If even the local chapters remain divided, we will ever be able to take over political power,” according to a Party of Hope source.
While Otsuka expressed displeasure at Edano’s “forcing” local lawmakers to make a decision, Upper House member Mitsuru Sakurai wrote in his email newsletter: “No local assembly member wants to run as a DP candidate in the simultaneous local elections.” Many party members are pessimistic.
Party of Hope leader Yuichiro Tamaki is proposing the founding of “regional parties” to be participated in by local lawmakers of the three parties. The CDPJ’s former Lower House Speaker Hirotaka Akamatsu has also brought up the idea of “joint floor groups in the local assemblies.”
In any case, no vision for a change of administration has been presented. This illustrates the serious damage caused by the breakup of the leading opposition party. (Slightly abridged)