By Sawada Daisuke
The ruling and opposition parties are unsettled by the recent decision by the Democratic Party for the People (DPFP) to approve the government’s FY 2022 draft budget. Although the move was welcomed by the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), Komeito is concerned that its influence as the LDP’s junior partner might diminish. The Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan (CDPJ) is not hiding its displeasure at the DPFP’s decision, as it will no doubt negatively impact opposition parties’ effort to join hands in the Upper House election. The CDPJ hopes to field joint opposition candidates in single-seat constituencies at the election.
“I had made up my mind to agree to the draft budget. Going forward, I plan to make many proposals [to the administration],” said DPFP leader Tamaki Yuichiro to Prime Minister Kishida Fumio on Feb. 22. Kishida replied: “I will take your advice seriously and exercise caution in advancing policies.” The two exchanged a friendly “elbow bump” at the request of the press.
The DPFP’s supporting a government draft budget is highly unusual because the opposition parties almost never agree with the ruling parties on matters related to nominations for prime minister, no-confidence motions against the Cabinet, and draft budgets. The budget approval triggered many in both camps to speculate that “the DPFP is hoping to join the ruling coalition” or that “[Tamaki] wants to demonstrate that the DPFP is the third strongest political party, not Nippon Ishin no Kai, which is taking hardline approach with the Kishida administration.”
Tamaki hails from Kagawa Prefecture and used to work at the Ministry of Finance, just like former Prime Minister Ohira Masayoshi, whose heir Tamaki claims to be. Ohira used to head the “Kochikai” faction, which is now led by Kishida. An opposition party legislator suspects that “[Tamaki] wants to take part in the ‘Dai-kochikai initiative,’ in which multiple LDP factions that trace their origins to Kochi-kai join together to reestablish a large faction.”
Meanwhile, Komeito is nervous about the DPFP’s move. Komeito is not in sync with the LDP on issues related to constitutional reform and acquiring the capability to attack enemy bases. As the DPFP is a middle-of-the-road conservative party, its joining the ruling camp could diminish Komeito’s presence and influence. At a press briefing on Feb. 22, Komeito leader Yamaguchi Natsuo put to rest any such speculations, saying, “We have confirmed with the prime minister that [the DPFP’s decision] will not affect the coalition between Komeito and the LDP.”
The DPFP decision will undermine the opposition camp’s efforts to unify candidates in single-seat constituencies for the Upper House election.
At a press conference in Kobe on Feb. 23, CDPJ leader Izumi Kenta said that his party will determine its stance on coordinating with other opposition parties in the Upper House election after hearing from the DPFP its reasons for taking such an action. Izumi pointed out: “[The DPFP must decide] whether it is trying to present an alternative to the LDP or trying to assimilate into the LDP.” Some members of the DPFP are opposed to Tamaki’s policy, and it is possible that the CDPJ will try to instigate division within the DPFP.
On Feb. 22, Shii Kazuo, leader of the Japanese Communist Party (JCP), said to the press: “The DPFP’s approving the budget plan amounts to its declaring it seeks to join the ruling camp.” The JCP is very frustrated by the DPFP, which has long refused to engage in electoral cooperation with the JCP. Moving forward, the JCP will likely concentrate its efforts on strengthening electoral coordination with the CDPJ.