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Japan's new opposition party to boast liberal-leaning slate

TOKYO -- The party to be formed through the merger of Japan's two leading opposition camps is set to fill its top ranks with left-leaning lawmakers, including a young woman as policy chief.

     Shiori Yamao, 41, of the Democratic Party of Japan, a second-term lawmaker in the Diet's lower house, will replace Goshi Hosono as policy chief when the DPJ merges with the Japan Innovation Party, forming what will be called the Democratic Party. Hosono, 44, is known as an outspoken conservative within the DPJ.

     Yamao has made a name for herself advocating for children stuck on waiting lists for Japan's day-care facilities. She assailed Prime Minister Shinzo Abe for a lack of action on the issue, sending the government and the ruling parties scrambling for solutions.

     DPJ President Katsuya Okada looks to make the shortage of child-care facilities a key issue in this summer's upper house election. Yamao's appointment will underscore the new party's proactive stance on the matter. Putting a new face in the policy chief position also aims to brand the new party as fresh and exciting, given that the 62-year-old Okada and DPJ Secretary General Yukio Edano, 51, will retain their posts after the merger.

     The merged party's leadership will shift further to the left compared with the DPJ's current top staff. Okada and Edano are fairly liberal. Yamao favors allowing women to retain their maiden names after marriage and views legislation enacted last summer to expand Japan's security powers as unconstitutional.

     Okada's staff choices are seen in part as measures to accommodate the DPJ's liberal wing, which showed resistance to the party merger and to abandoning the DPJ name. The election of a leader for the merged party, to take place after the upper house race, could become a battle between the liberal and conservative factions.

     Okada also is working to balance the DPJ and Japan Innovation Party in his staff appointments. The DPJ's compromise on allowing a new name has let it retain many key positions in the new party. But there are plans to appoint an acting leader from its partner. Both JIP chief Yorihisa Matsuno and Kenji Eda, his predecessor, are being sought for the role, though both have firmly declined the offer.


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