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Editorial: Japan’s main opposition party must start over with thorough internal review

  • November 3, 2021
  • , The Mainichi
  • English Press

Yukio Edano, the leader of the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan (CDP), which marked a loss in the recent House of Representatives election, has expressed his intention to resign from the party’s top post to take responsibility for losing a significant number of seats in the lower house even though the party had aimed to take over the government.


“We were able to present a choice for who would run the government, but the loss was due to my inadequacies,” Edano said. The party’s comeback must entail not just new faces in the party leadership, but a thorough review, including about what shape the party should take.


Taking into account the previous election in which opposition parties fought each other for the same votes, this time, opposition parties narrowed down their candidates together to one in many single-seat constituencies.


In single-seat constituencies, where ruling and opposition parties were in many cases fighting each other in one-on-one battles, the CDP increased its number of seats by nine.


However, in the proportional-representation system, which indicates how popular a political party is, the CDP’s seats decreased by 23. According to an exit poll conducted by Kyodo News, 24% of those who do not support a particular political party voted for the CDP, down from 31% in the 2017 lower house election.


Was it not Edano’s lack of “strength” as party leader that had a large effect on the election results? He was unable to fulfill voters’ expectations as a leader to whom they could entrust the country in an election that put the reins of government up for grabs.


The CDP was established shortly before the last lower house election, and made a strong showing by gathering the support of liberals. But it had the strong sense of being a private operation run by Edano and a few lawmakers close to him. They were unable to set up an arrangement in which open and thorough discussions were conducted within the party, and diverse opinions were considered.


The CDP’s campaign platform was ill-prepared and much of it was questionable in terms of its feasibility. The party advocated for the time-limited lowering of consumption and income taxes, but they were mere stopgap measures that did not discuss in detail where funds would come from. The party focused on emphasizing its differences from the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), and failed to hammer out viable policies.


Some have pointed out that the CDP’s collaboration with the Japanese Communist Party (JCP) turned CDP supporters away, as the two parties’ alliance shelved differences in opinion on fundamental issues of the country, such as the Self-Defense Forces and the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty, to prioritize cooperation in the election. This tactic also gave reason for the ruling parties to criticize the CDP.


An election to choose the next leader of the party will take place before the end of the year. It is imperative that the reasons for the party’s significant loss in the election be investigated, and that the party be rebuilt so that it has the capacity to take the reins of government.


After the CDP makes clear what kind of country it aims to make Japan, it will be necessary for the party to reconsider a strategy toward next summer’s House of Councillors election so that it can gather broad support.


For democracy to function, the existence of an opposition that can stand up to the ruling party is crucial. The CDP must use this opportunity of rebuilding itself to boost its strength as a party.

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