DPFP Leadership Election: Can Policy-Oriented Stance Lead to Increased Support for Party?

The Democratic Party for the People (DPFP) has been appreciative of its leader’s policy-oriented stance in challenging the ruling party through debates. However, it remains to be seen how he can translate this stance into increasing the DPFP’s strength.

DPFP leader Yuichiro Tamaki, who campaigned on the slogan “solution over confrontation,” defeated Seiji Maehara, acting head of the party, in their presidential election and will continue to lead the opposition party.

Originating from the now defunct Democratic Party of Japan, the DPFP was formed in 2020 by lawmakers who did not join the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan (CDPJ) and has been led by Tamaki ever since. Although the DPFP is a small party with 21 Diet members, it prioritizes policy implementation and often cooperates with the ruling coalition.

In last year’s ordinary Diet session, the DPFP supported the government’s budget proposal. Since then, it has established a framework for holding talks on each policy matter with the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and its junior coalition partner Komeito, proposing measures to deal with such issues as soaring oil prices.

In addition to monitoring the administration, opposition parties play the role of ensuring that the part of the people’s will that can’t be grasped by the ruling parties is reflected in policy matters. In this sense, the DPFP’s response, which is not solely focused on criticism but rather on a fair and balanced approach, is highly commendable.

Even if the DPFP takes a policy-oriented stance, however, it cannot be said to be a responsible party if it only seeks to expand benefits and avoids discussing the burden on the public. This attitude might be felt by voters, leading to the lack of support for the party.

It is important for the party to set forth a clear philosophy and national vision, and to present policies and procedures for their realization, as well as to show a convincing plan for the financial resources to fund them. It is also essential to strengthen the DPFP’s local organizations and make steady efforts to expand support.

The latest party leadership election has attracted the attention of other parties. This is because there was an idea that emerged in the LDP to bring the DPFP into the coalition if Tamaki, who takes a cooperative approach to the ruling parties, defeats Maehara, who advocated the unity of “elements that are not the LDP nor the Japanese Communist Party (JCP).”

If a coalition were to be formed among the LDP, Komeito and the DPFP, it would be necessary to coordinate candidates in each of the constituencies of the House of Representatives and the House of Councillors, many of which are already held by members of those parties.

Japanese Trade Union Confederation (Rengo), the main support base for the DPFP, is also the support base of the largest opposition party, the CDPJ. If the DPFP joins the ruling coalition, it could result in a split in Rengo. Any new coalition idea will not be a simple matter.

As the LDP’s sole dominance continues, the opposition parties are divided over whether to form a united front or to pursue independent paths.

The CDPJ has called on other opposition parties to agree on a single candidate for single-seat constituencies for the next lower house election, but the other parties have not accepted.

Nippon Ishin (Japan Innovation Party) leader Nobuyuki Baba has recently said the CDPJ should be “smashed” while saying the JCP would be “better if it disappeared from Japan,” inviting backlash from both parties he targeted.

The current state in which the opposition parties confront each other in this manner is unseemly. If this situation continues in which the opposition parties are viewed as being too numerous and too weak, there will be a lack of intensity in politics.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Sept. 10, 2023)