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DP Lower House members moving for realignment of opposition parties

House of Representatives members who still hold Democratic Party (DP) membership, including its standing adviser Katsuya Okada and former Vice President Kenji Eda, are actively working for the realignment of opposition parties. Along with sounding out the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan (CDPJ) on collaboration, they are pressing the Party of Hope to purge the influence of its former leader, Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike, aiming at regrouping the forces that split from the DP. However, there is a serious lack of coordination between Okada et al. and the DP leadership dominated by House of Councillors members, so it remains to be seen whether the realignment efforts will produce results.


Eda announced at a news conference held at the Kanagawa prefectural government office building on Feb. 19 the founding of a political group cutting across the DP, the CDPJ, and the Party of Hope, “Jiyu Minken Kaigi@Kanagawa” [Freedom and Civil Rights Council@Kanagawa] (Minken Kanagawa, for short). Eda, CDPJ Lower House member Tomoko Abe, and Party of Hope Lower House member Kentaro Motomura will serve as secretaries and some 100 local assembly members will join the group, which plans to launch its activities in April. Former Finance Minister Hirohisa Fujii, who has retired from politics, will serve as the group’s chairman.


Eda said, “Unless we broaden our ranks among the citizens, we will not be able to compete with the Liberal Democratic Party,” indicating his aspiration to pursue a change of administration through a grassroots movement. He will also hold regular meetings of a group consisting of Diet members from the three parties, which he calls the “Bridge Association,” to make vigorous efforts to lay the groundwork for cooperation among these parties.


In his effort to find a way to form a joint floor group with the CDPJ, Okada has been meeting with Lower House Vice Speaker Hirotaka Akamatsu, who is close to CDPJ leader Yukio Edano. On the other hand, he is urging the Party of Hope to “set things straight” or purge Koike’s influence. This means that if the Party of Hope returns to the policies before the DP broke up, it would be possible to talk about collaboration.


The fact that the Party of Hope has announced the modification of its policy during the Lower House election last year of condoning the security legislation and begun discussions with the party’s founding members on splitting up the party shows that “pressure” from Okada and others has been effective.


However, the DP leadership is also looking for ways to merge with the Party of Hope through channels different from that of Okada et al. Therefore, differences between the two groups often surface. Okada expressed his displeasure with this effort by the DP leadership at a news conference on Feb. 13. He said: “Merging into one single party will not gain any support.”


Party of Hope members also resent being at the whim of the DP Lower House members. Okada, former Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda, and his colleagues also carry the negative image of the former Democratic Party of Japan administration. A mid-ranking Diet member laments that “the glass ceiling that was finally broken is now back in place.”

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