Strengthen Own Footing to Become Viable Challengers to Ruling Coalition

This “multitude of the weak,” as the opposition parties in their current state are dubbed, will not change if each party continues to rely on the popularity and vote-getting power of each other and merely talk about which party to work with for elections. They must first strengthen their own footing.

Kenta Izumi, the leader of the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan (CDPJ), has made a call for the opposition parties to coordinate with each other to agree on a single candidate for single-seat constituencies for the next House of Representatives election.

The opposition parties fielded many such candidates for the 2021 lower house election, but they did not fare well. As the CDPJ had agreed with the Japanese Communist Party before that election on limited cooperation but excluding cabinet posts should they gain a majority, it was ridiculed by the ruling coalition as the “Constitutional Communist Party of Japan” and ended up in a crushing defeat.

Given the circumstances, Izumi had been cautious about such coordination of candidates, but he changed his stance because he was strongly urged by his party to do so, else the opposition parties would all fail together.

This is an indication of the current state of the CDPJ, which has been in a prolonged slump without a fully formulated strategy.

Nippon Ishin (Japan Innovation Party) and the Democratic Party for the People (DPFP) are not in favor of Izumi’s proposal.

Ishin made great strides in the unified local elections this spring, so the party has likely determined that it can compete adequately in the lower house election without cooperating with other parties.

The DPFP, rather than cooperating with the CDPJ, which like itself originated from the now defunct Democratic Party of Japan, is leaning toward cooperation with Ishin. DPFP leader Yuichiro Tamaki has emphasized that “the policies of Ishin are closer to those of the DPFP,” but perhaps he is also expecting to capitalize on Ishin’s popularity.

It is true that the ruling camp would find itself in favorable conditions if each opposition party fielded a candidate in a single-seat constituency.

In fact, in the by-election for Chiba Constituency No. 5 of the House of Representatives this spring, the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, despite facing headwinds over a corruption scandal, won a close race after the CDPJ, Ishin, the DPFP and the Japanese Communist Party were among the parties that each fielded a candidate.

For the opposition parties to face off against the LDP, considered the dominant political force, backing a single candidate can be an election strategy.

The difficulty in backing a single candidate, however, is that the opposition parties have different basic policies. And even if the backing of a single candidate is realized, it would be unlikely to be effective unless each party had actual strength.

It is essential for each party to formulate realistic and appealing policies, strengthen local organizations, and steadily expand support.

From the outset, if a major party competes with several smaller parties under a single-seat constituency system, the major party has the advantage. As the current system requires the correction of so-called vote-value disparities, frequent redistricting also has adverse effects for smaller parties.

In addition to election tactics, opposition parties must discuss the election system fundamentally and build momentum toward reform.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 8, 2023)