The Yomiuri ShimbunWith the official start of the House of Representatives campaign, the structure of the races for 289 single-seat constituencies has now become clear.
Although the Democratic Party effectively joined Kibo no To (Party of Hope), which is led by Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike, right after the lower house was dissolved, their coordination was rocky.
Some former DP members have formed a new party — the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan — while others are running as unaffiliated candidates. Overall, about 80 percent of constituencies have multiple opposition candidates running.
Most constituencies overcrowded
Several opposition candidates, including unaffiliated former DP members, are running against Liberal Democratic Party or Komeito candidates in each of 227 constituencies.
Of these, 38 constituencies have Kibo and CDPJ candidates running against each other. In several constituencies, Kibo has aggressively fielded first-time candidates against former DP executives — such as against CDPJ leader Yukio Edano in Saitama Constituency No. 5, CDPJ acting leader Akira Nagatsuma in Tokyo Constituency No. 7, and former Prime Minister Naoto Kan in Tokyo Constituency No. 18.
Chiba Constituency No. 2 is shaping up to be a fierce battle. In the previous lower house election in 2014, candidates from the LDP, Nippon Ishin no Kai and the Japanese Communist Party faced off. This time, candidates from the LDP, Kibo, the JCP, the CDPJ and Ishin are all running.
In the House of Councillors election of July 2016, four opposition parties — the DP, the JCP, the then People’s Life Party, and the Social Democratic Party — unified their candidates in constituencies where only one seat was being contested. Out of the 32 constituencies, they won 11 seats, indicating the strategy was at least somewhat successful.
For a time, the DP considered joining forces with the JCP, but with the DP now effectively dissolved, this idea went nowhere.
The JCP has criticized Kibo as “nothing more than an appendage to LDP power” over its backing of policies such as the security-related laws and constitutional revision. The JCP is fielding its candidates even in constituencies where the JCP was considering fielding unified candidates with the DP, and where Kibo candidates are now running.
In contrast, the JCP decided not to field candidates in 83 constituencies out of consideration for forces such as the CDPJ and the SDP, which are both opposed to the security-related laws.
Meanwhile, cooperation between Kibo and Ishin is taking the form of leaving Tokyo to Kibo and Osaka to Ishin. Koike met with Ishin leader and Osaka Gov. Ichiro Matsui and others for talks on Sept. 30, soon after the lower house was dissolved. During that meeting, they agreed to cooperate in the election with shared policies such as opposition to nuclear power.
“Protest votes against the administration may split, possibly working to the advantage of the ruling bloc,” said a mid-ranking LDP member regarding the situation in which cooperation between opposition parties is limited.
1-on-1 battles in 57 constituencies
Ruling and opposition party candidates are set to face off one-on-one in 57 constituencies. Of them, Kibo candidates will face ruling party candidates alone in only four constituencies, including Kumamoto Constituency No. 1, which pits State Minister of Finance Minoru Kihara of the LDP against former Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Yorihisa Matsuno of Kibo.
The ruling bloc is facing CDPJ candidates one-on-one in 15 constituencies and unaffiliated former DP members in 13 constituencies.