Defectors from Your Party are trying to rally like-minded lawmakers to create an opposition force that can challenge the dominant ruling party. But their plans so far would require the Japan Restoration Party to break up and the Democratic Party of Japan to play second fiddle.
Although some big political names have expressed an interest in realignment, others scoffed at the initiative of the 14 lawmakers, led by Kenji Eda, who quit Your Party on Dec. 9.
“Under the current political situation, only the Liberal Democratic Party is strong and all others are weak,” Eda, former Your Party secretary-general, said on Dec. 9. “We will assemble opposition lawmakers and create a force that can take power.”
Eda criticized his former boss, Your Party chief Yoshimi Watanabe, for siding with the LDP on the state secrets protection law enacted Dec. 6.
The opposition party voted for the legislation in the Lower House, but two party members voted against it and Eda abstained in protest.
Eda plans to form a new party with other defectors this month under the platform of regaining leadership from bureaucrats, decentralization, phasing out nuclear power, and economic recovery.
According to sources, Eda hopes to have his new party merge with the Japan Restoration Party next spring and later accept defectors from the DPJ.
Toru Hashimoto, co-leader of the Japan Restoration Party, backed Eda’s initiative Dec. 9.
“I believe Eda has a good cause,” he said. “Those in the DPJ, Your Party and the Japan Restoration Party who share the same spirit should bring themselves together.”
Eda has already built a network with some members of the DPJ and the Japan Restoration Party.
He will set up a study group on deregulation on Dec. 10 with Goshi Hosono, former DPJ secretary-general, and Yorihisa Matsuno, secretary-general of the caucus of Japan Restoration Party Diet members.
Sixteen young and mid-ranked lawmakers from Your Party, the DPJ and the Japan Restoration Party took part in a preparatory session Nov. 29.
In addition, Seiji Maehara, former DPJ president, is seeking discussions on administrative reform with the Japan Restoration Party. Hashimoto has agreed to the proposal.
But Eda must clear many hurdles before his political realignment vision can become reality.
Eda is demanding the Japan Restoration Party dump former Sunrise Party members, who support constitutional revisions and a hard-line national security policy, before it merges with his new party.
The Sunrise Party was led by former Tokyo Governor Shintaro Ishihara before it merged with Hashimoto’s Japan Restoration Party last year. Ishihara, a staunch conservative who has long called for revising the Constitution, is Japan Restoration Party co-leader.
Although the Japan Restoration Party has experienced internal bickering, there are no indications that Hashimoto and other pro-alignment members will immediately part ways with former Sunrise Party members.
Leaders of the DPJ, which lost power to the LDP last year, are keen to assemble liberal forces under the party’s initiative and remain wary about joining a new party proposed by Eda.
“We want to get our act together and regain public support,” DPJ President Banri Kaieda said Dec. 9. “If that happens, other opposition parties will agree that the DPJ should take the lead.”
Your Party chief Watanabe said Eda’s new party will be short-lived.
“History shows that parties created in December disappear within the blink of an eye,” he said. “They lost public support because voters knew that they were formed only to be eligible for subsidies (from next year).”
A mid-ranking DPJ lawmaker has high hopes on Eda’s new party, comparing it to New Party Sakigake, which led to the creation of the DPJ in 1996.
However, LDP Secretary-General Shigeru Ishiba took the opposite view, using a DPJ analogy.
“You have only to look at the DPJ to see where a consolidation of anti-LDP forces will end up,” he said.
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