TOKYO -- In a rare move, the Japanese Trade Union Confederation, or Rengo -- the Democratic Party's biggest backer -- has decided not to support any specific political party in the Oct. 22 lower house election.
The decision came after Democratic Party members split, with some joining Kibo no To, or the Party of Hope, led by Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike, and some moving to the new Constitutional Democratic Party. Rengo concluded that it would be difficult to back the Party of Hope due to policy gaps that exist with the party concerning a consumption tax hike and nuclear power.
Rengo is the country's largest labor organization, with about 6.8 million union members. In national elections, its members help with election campaigns, and it has enormous influence on politics as a vote-gathering machine.
The group has in the past forged policy agreements with specific parties in the run-up to national elections.
It has extended support to the Democratic Party since the party's foundation in 2016. However, discord between Rengo and the Democrats is becoming more apparent in recent years over the nuclear policy and the introduction of a merit-based pay system instead of hourly wages.
Many Democratic Party members have joined the Party of Hope for the next lower house election.
The Party of Hope's policies differ from the Democratic Party's.
Koike has stated her party's commitment to freezing the planned consumption tax hike from 8% to 10%, scheduled for October 2019.
Democratic Party leader Seiji Maehara had accepted the hike -- in line with Rengo's stance.
The zero nuclear policy advocated by Koike is at odds with Rengo, which includes the Federation of Electric Power Related Industry Worker's Unions of Japan, or Denryoku Soren.
Some discrepancy also exists over the contentious 2015 security legislation between the Democratic Party-Rengo alliance, which demands it be scrapped, and the Party of Hope.
Rengo President Rikio Kozu has adopted a positive stance on the Democrats' merger into the Party of Hope, but he is opposed to Koike's principle of excluding the liberal factions of the party.
Rengo has decided to give endorsements to about 170 candidates from the Democratic Party, and has no plans to withdraw them.
Although it will not support the Party of Hope as a whole, it will back former Democratic members on its endorsement list who run under the Party of Hope ticket -- another rare move.