Before Prime Minister Suga Yoshihide announced his intention not to run in the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) presidential election, Edano Yukio, leader of the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan (CDPJ), was planning to snatch a Lower House election victory from the LDP while it was led by hugely unpopular Suga. The change in circumstances has forced the CDPJ to seek a stronger coalition with the Japanese Communist Party (JCP).
“If the LDP elects Kono Taro as president (and therefore the next prime minister) and appoints Ishiba Shiberu as secretary-general, Edano won’t have a chance as he is not good at communicating with the people,” a senior CDPJ member worries. “That will be the end of the CDPJ!”
To date, Edano has met with media about once a month at the most. Now he says, “I will speak to reporters two or three times a week from now on.”
Edano has yet to tell the nation what his vision is and what his party would do if it gained control of the government. He avoids answering questions at press briefings by frequently using such phrases like “as I have said in the past.” “It’s just like Suga’s press conferences,” complained a local CDPJ member.
“Edano has taken a “wait-and-see” attitude until now, but everything changed for the worse with Suga’s resignation,” says a staff member of a Lower House legislator who will run in the Lower House election. “The CDPJ’s campaign platform will be upstaged by the LDP presidential election, and Edano seems to be rushing around in confusion.”
CDPJ rushing to join hands with the JCP
“Our election prospects have become dire,” says a senior CDPJ official. “We have no choice but to join forces with the JCP.”
On Sept. 4, the day after Suga announced his decision not to seek reelection, Edano mentioned cooperation with the JCP, saying, “Next week, we will make a concrete step forward.”
The CDPJ had been hesitant to clarify its stance on cooperation with the JCP because of the strong sentiment within Rengo (Japanese Trade Union Confederation) against such cooperation. Rengo is a major CDPJ supporter. In June, Edano promised Rengo President Kozu Rikio that the CDPJ was not considering forming a coalition administration with the JCP.
As for the coordination of candidates in electoral districts, Edano showed confidence that the CDPJ could lead the initiative, telling those close to him that “it will work out at the appropriate time.” Edano even said in an interview on Sept. 1 that the CDPJ would aim at securing a majority on its own.
Suga’s withdrawal changed everything.
The JCP is trying to attract Edano, suggesting that “an opposition coalition could include cooperation outside the cabinet” (Shii). A JCP source remarked on Edano’s recent enthusiasm for cooperation with the JCP, saying, “Ironically, Suga’s stepping down has forced Edano to respond to suggestions we have repeatedly made.”
Out of 289 single-seat districts nationwide, the CDPJ has fielded candidates in 213. The JCP, the Democratic Party for the People (DPFP), the Social Democratic Party, and Reiwa Shinsengumi are also fielding candidates in 76 of these 213 districts, and the JCP has the most candidates competing with the CDPJ.
On the other hand, the JCP has not fielded candidates in 93 of the 105 districts where CDPJ incumbents plan to run (about 90%), and the CDPJ has not fielded candidates in four of the five districts where JCP incumbents plan to run. Whether or not the CDPJ and the JCP can make mutually beneficial arrangements in these districts will be the focus of the election cooperation.
Even if that were to go smoothly, however, Rengo and the DPFP might reject Edano’s “cooperation” with the JCP, depending on the content. (Abridged)