TOKYO — Candidates vying for the leadership of Japan’s largest opposition party suggested Monday the alliance with other opposition forces should be maintained ahead of the upper house election next summer but changes should be made to how they cooperate.
All four candidates in the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan’s leadership race suggested it was not a mistake to align with the Japanese Communist Party in hopes of challenging the ruling coalition of Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s Liberal Democratic Party in the general election on Oct. 31.
They came to this conclusion despite a disappointing electoral showing in which they lost ground to the ruling coalition.
The alliance with the JCP in the House of Representatives election proved difficult for the public to embrace due to the sides’ contradictory stances on the Japan-U.S. alliance. The CDPJ believes in maintaining a healthy relationship while the JCP calls for the scrapping of the security treaty between Tokyo and Washington.
Three other opposition parties also joined forces with them in the election, adding to the disparate positions.
“In a single-seat constituency, the ruling coalition will not field multiple candidates but opposition parties might, and such a situation will work against the opposition,” one of the candidates Seiji Osaka said during a debate in Tokyo.
Osaka was a special adviser to the prime minister when the CDPJ’s forerunner party was in power.
Junya Ogawa, a former parliamentary vice minister for internal affairs and communications, said the party should focus more on winning proportional representation seats.
“I will give top priority to reforming the party so people can put their hope in it” before focusing on inter-party cooperation and trying to collectively appeal to voters, Ogawa said.
Osaka stressed the need to have strong candidates in single-seat constituencies to set up head-to-head contests with the ruling coalition’s representatives and called for efforts to name proportional representation candidates for the House of Councillors election well ahead of official campaigning rather than drawing up a last-minute list.
CDPJ policy chief Kenta Izumi, who was the first to announce his candidacy, said the opposition failed to present a viable and strong alternative to the incumbent coalition in the recent election.
“I think there is a need to coordinate with other parties in delivering our messages,” Izumi said.
Chinami Nishimura, a former senior vice minister of health, labor and welfare and the only female candidate running for the leadership, said, “The CDPJ lost seats in the election, but I think that does not mean our appeal and our vision for society has been denied.”
She added the party needs to review its election strategies including how to prepare to appeal more strongly to voters.
Whoever is elected will be tasked with gaining wider public support in the run-up to the House of Councillors election next summer.
Izumi has the backing of an intraparty group he leads with political veteran Ichiro Ozawa, while Osaka comes from a liberal faction that is the largest force in the party.
Nishimura is backed by a group led by former Prime Minister Naoto Kan, and Ogawa has won endorsements from supporters of Hiroshi Ogushi, former advisor to the prime minister, who is not running.
CDPJ Diet members will cast ballots at an extraordinary party meeting on Nov. 30, while local assembly and rank-and-file members have to vote online or by mail by Nov. 29. If no candidate wins a majority, a runoff will be held between the top two contenders.