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2017 Lower House Election / 3-way election battle taking shape

The Yomiuri Shimbun With Democratic Party Deputy President Yukio Edano having announced the setting up of a new party comprising the party’s leftist and liberal-minded members, the upcoming House of Representatives election can be summed up as a battle among three major forces — the new party and two conservative forces that are divided into ruling and opposition parties.

The lower house election will be held on Oct. 22, with the official campaign period starting on Oct. 10. All eyes are on how the repeated fission and fusion among members, which was triggered by a plan of Kibo no To (Party of Hope) to select DP members it will back, will impact the election results.

At a press conference Monday in Tokyo, Edano announced the formation of the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan. “Our democracy is neglected,” Edano said, demonstrating his opposition to politics led by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe as the single powerful force.

At the same time, Edano also emphasized that his new party is different from Kibo, which is led by Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike, in terms of ideals and policies.

Former lower house Vice Speaker Hirotaka Akamatsu, who used to belong to the now-defunct Japan Socialist Party, DP Senior Deputy Secretary General Kiyomi Tsujimoto, who used to belong to the Social Democratic Party, and others are expected to join the CDPJ. If recently incumbent DP lawmakers do not join Kibo and run in single-seat constituencies as independent candidates, they cannot field their candidacies for the proportional representation system. Members who plan to join the CDPJ called on finding a way to avert such a situation.

Among the members, there were plans such as aiming for the resignation of DP President Seiji Maehara in order to have him withdraw his intention to join Kibo and having their new party split from the DP as a means to receive party subsidies granted to the DP. However, both plans were scrapped because there is little time left before the start of the official campaigning for the election. In the end, they were apparently forced to set up a new party on their own.

With the latest move, the division of the DP will become almost certain, and DP members who plan to run in the upcoming election are likely to make one of three choices: to become a Kibo candidate, a CDPJ candidate or an independent candidate.

At a press conference Monday at the Diet building, former DP President Katsuya Okada said, “I decided to run as an independent candidate for the lower house election.” Former Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda also has expressed his intention to run as an independent candidate. In addition, former Finance Minister Jun Azumi and former DP deputy president Kenji Eda also plan to run as independent candidates.

The CDPJ is making overtures to cooperate with the Japanese Communist Party and the SDP for the upcoming election, and the two parties are likely to accept the offer. Akira Koike, head of the JCP secretariat, said at a press conference Monday, “Collaboration and cooperation will be possible.” SDP Secretary General Seiji Mataichi also said at a separate press conference on the same day that he would welcome the new party’s move.

Meanwhile, if opposition candidates in single-seat constituencies are divided against one another into Kibo, the CDPJ and other parties, it could work to benefit the ruling parties. In the 2012 lower house election, the proliferation of opposition candidates such as the then Democratic Party of Japan and the third-force opposition parties caused non-LDP votes to be dispersed among opposition candidates. As a result, the LDP won an overwhelming victory and returned to power. The LDP took 43 percent of the vote in single-seat constituencies, while gaining about 80 percent of the seats in the lower house.

Some members of the ruling parties are relieved that the DP will not fully join Kibo, with a senior LDP member saying, “The crisis quiets down.”

At a meeting at the Prime Minister’s Office held Monday, Abe introduced the expression, “People in a rush to succeed will rush to fail.” Then Abe said, “This is also the case with politics,” which provoked laughs from participants. Abe apparently made the statement with Koike and Edano, who formed new parties just before the election, in mind.

However, recently incumbent LDP lower house members whose constituencies are in Tokyo and others have deep-rooted concerns about opposition parties. “I don’t know my rival candidates. It’s weird as I am now fighting with invisible enemies,” a middle-ranking LDP member said.Speech

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