Opposition’s joint campaigning meaningless without unified policies

It has become obvious that a joint campaign that does not share philosophies and policies cannot receive significant support from the public. Opposition parties should squarely face the dead end in their strategy and steadily get their posture back on track.

Yukio Edano expressed his intention to step down as leader of the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, the largest opposition party, in response to the defeat in the House of Representatives election. “I offer my heartfelt apology for my lack of capabilities,” Edano said.

The party suffered a crushing defeat, ending up with 14 fewer seats than it held before the official start of campaigning. The CDPJ had fielded candidates jointly with four other opposition parties, including the Japanese Communist Party, in a bid to gather votes from people critical of the administration. However, given that this strategy ended in failure, it is only natural that the party’s leader should take responsibility.

Edano founded the former version of the CDPJ in 2017, following the split of the Democratic Party. In September last year, that CDPJ sought to merge with the Democratic Party for the People, but some DPFP lawmakers, including those from private labor unions who opposed the CDPJ’s position on nuclear power, among other issues, did not join the new CDPJ. As a result, many weak opposition parties have continued to exist in the Diet.

Edano plans to resign on the closing day of a special Diet session to be convened on Nov. 10. The CDPJ said that an election including rank-and-file party members and others to select a new leader will be held after that.

It is essential in the party leadership election to review the lower house poll and reexamine the unified front for the election among opposition parties, including the JCP.

The biggest failure may have been Edano daring to say that the JCP would provide “limited cooperation from outside the cabinet” if a change of government occurred.

Although the JCP withdrew many of its candidates, supporters of the CDPJ grew increasingly wary of the JCP’s growing influence.

In its platform, the JCP calls for the dissolution of the Self-Defense Forces and the scrapping of the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty. This is a far cry from the basic philosophy of the CDPJ, which is based on the Japan-U.S. alliance.

Using a civic group as a mediator, the CDPJ concluded policy agreements with the JCP and other opposition parties, including the abolition of some parts of the security-related laws and investigating scandals involving the government.

The CDPJ leaned more than ever toward criticism of the government and proposals for pork-barrel spending policies, possibly because the party has been influenced by its close cooperation with the JCP and others, which have different basic policies.

Simply hoping to win ballots from critical voters, the CDPJ failed to attract support from conservative, moderate and independent voters because it lacks realistic policy proposals regarding such issues as economic revitalization and the population decline.

Although the Japanese Trade Union Confederation (Rengo), which supports the CDPJ, had told the party that it was critical of the joint campaigning with the JCP, the CDPJ leadership held firm. The CDPJ’s failure to listen to internal concerns is another reason for the defection of its supporters.

Ahead of next year’s House of Councillors election, the new CDPJ leader will be forced to review its campaign cooperation with other parties. If the party is serious about seeking a change of government, it needs to steadily expand its support base through strengthening local organizations by promoting constructive policies on its own, rather than relying on critical votes.

— The original Japanese article appeared in The Yomiuri Shimbun on Nov. 3, 2021.