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Koike answers questions from reporters in Tokyo on Oct. 1.
Politics

Japanese opposition team-up in disarray as liberals balk

Litmus tests prompt talk of new party for excluded lawmakers

| Japan

TOKYO -- The opposition Democratic Party's grand plans for effectively merging with Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike's nascent national party ahead of the general election are in disarray as increasingly frustrated left-leaning members, feeling left out, weigh a new party of their own.

The governor's Kibo no To, or Party of Hope, insists that any Democrats seeking its endorsement in the Oct. 22 lower house election pledge to toe the line on certain policies, such as supporting controversial 2015 security legislation, revising the constitution, and freezing the consumption tax hike planned for October 2019.

Democrats who could be excluded under these conditions complain that they had initially been told the Party of Hope would accept all Democratic lawmakers wanting to join.

Democratic Party Deputy President Yukio Edano, a central figure in the party's left wing, hinted at the possibility of forming a new party to accommodate lawmakers left out. "If the Democratic Party's principles and policies are going to change, various decisions will have to be made," he told reporters Sunday.

Democratic Party Deputy President Yukio Edano

Meanwhile, Masaru Wakasa, a Koike ally and a founding Party of Hope member, maintained Sunday on a program of public broadcaster NHK that "we can't back people who lack the right qualifications." He acknowledged that the party could field candidates for fewer than the 233 seats needed to win a majority in the lower house. The first round of endorsements is due out as early as Monday.

Wakasa has met with Democratic ex-Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba to hash out such issues as how to handle the liberal lawmakers Koike is trying to keep out, but with no success.

Most Democratic lawmakers aim to join the Party of Hope and ride its momentum, though with the Oct. 10 start of the campaign fast approaching, how many will jump ship remains unclear.

Some are opting out of the arrangement, instead choosing to run without party support.

Democratic lawmaker Takayuki Ochiai said Sunday he intends to run as an independent. Other prominent Democrats with solid support in their home districts, such as former Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda, have announced similar plans.

Koike's party hopes to take advantage of the formidable organizing ability of the Japanese Trade Union Confederation, or Rengo -- Japan's largest labor organization and the Democrats' biggest backer. But while the group supported the team-up, dissatisfaction is growing with the arrangement in some corners.

Rengo's Shizuoka branch has decided to support Democratic lawmakers not endorsed by the Party of Hope even if they run as independents. It will also let members choose whether to vote for former Environment Minister Goshi Hosono, a Shizuoka lawmaker who defected from the Democrats to the new party.

Asked about the candidate selection process Sunday, Koike told reporters that "each of the districts and candidates has its own unique characteristics, so we're working them out one by one." She chalked up the disarray in the Democratic Party to "communication problems."

(Nikkei)

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